Work

Between blue and white collar, the technician in white overalls often occupies an ambiguous position. Better than most he knows—as in the following case—the technical quality of the company’s products; yet his recommendations go unlistened to or are torn up. His concern for the product is unlimited; yet it must make way for modern marketing techniques. His ambition is to rise in the company hierarchy; yet for that he delays getting married . . . cbf is 31, and is presently working on a study of the Food and Agricultural Organization.

Soon after leaving agricultural college I was offered a job as an instructor in a training school run by a large farm-machinery manufacturer. I took up the offer gladly, having decided, in common with many other students, that I wasn’t suited to practical farming, and wanting to make a career in one of the many industries connected with agriculture. The Company, a recently formed amalgam of a small British firm with a large North American one, ran the school principally to train personnel from its distributors, both in Britain and abroad, in the use and maintenance of its products. But it also gave free instruction to large numbers of people from all over the world who had no connection with the Company other than a need for knowledge of its equipment.

Most of these students were sponsored by their governments, or by organizations like the Colombo Plan, and they were usually government employees of one sort or another, perhaps working on some pilot scheme, or engaged as agricultural officers. Some of them took a very complete course lasting three months, but others came for shorter special courses in tropical agricultural machinery. Most of the British students stayed for two weeks. Total student throughput was about 2,000 a year, and there were about twenty instructors.

The school premises were an old army camp in some 300 acres of land. When I arrived the place was still a shambles of dreary huts amid bracken, brambles, and bare earth where the students had been practising with the machinery. But a development plan was soon in action: huts were knocked down in large numbers, and those left were gutted and lavishly laid out with offices, lecture rooms, machinery halls, film rooms, and individual oil-fired heating plants. Roads were built, lawns laid out, and trees planted. The expense was vast—probably in the region of £¼ million—and to many of us it seemed futile to carry out such a development scheme on rented property. We felt sure that for a similar sum the Company could have bought a large farm, erected the necessary buildings, and then run the farm as a commercial enterprise and as a model for visitors. But it seems to be axiomatic that from a lowly position within a company the ways of that company appear obtuse.