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The Dark Side of the World of Work

October 7, 2012 Comments off

As mentioned, I presented on workforce issues at Ohio Northern yesterday and as always it was a great time. However, the undertone of my insight has a bit of dark side.

We are in trouble as a nation, and this has nothing to do with current politics, taxes or international affairs.

Its about numbers, big and small. The numbers are demographics, and their effect will change the way communities, regions, states and the nation will operate. To illustrate, let me show you a graph, it’s worth a thousand words.

Look long and hard at this graph…and take it in.

We are in trouble.

First, lets look at one of the basic factors of economic development, that is a simple equation:

E (Economy) > P (Population)

Economic development is about growing your economy at a faster rate then your population. This definition helps us understand a few things:

1) If your economy is growing faster then your population there will be more revenue per person for reinvestment into the community.

2) If your economy is shrinking slower then your population, again, more revenue per person for reinvestment into the community.

The above scenario’s are a great thing as a community can use these extra funds to make things better for everyone, attracting more growth, etc…

Of course, the dark side should be now apparent, if the economy grows more slowly then the population for a long period of time, then the community has less dollars to serve. If you own a business, this means serving more with less, ultimately leading to closure.

So back to the graph, we will see a potential shortage of 20 million working in the next 5 to 10 years. What does this mean for a community?  Consider our definition of economic development…can the economy support the loss of workforce?

What this means is that some places, the places that can provide the necessary workforce, skill sets, and support to these businesses, will thrive. Those communities that cannot will, quite simply, disappear.

Are you scared yet?

Mind you, this is based on real numbers, not spin, not political discourse…but numbers.

There is good news…we CAN pull out of this situation. IF we realize sooner, then later, that serious change needs to occur, we can work together to make this situation better.

Let us start the conversation soon.

Eric

Ref: Lautman, Mark – When the Boomers Bail, 2011, Logan Square Press

Rethinking the “Skills Gap”

March 2, 2012 Comments off

As with all issues, buzz terms have dominated discussions at all levels of the conversation. One such term that has become synonymous with the time is “skills gap”.

While I am not arguing there is not a skill labor shortage, I am not sure we even understand what is trying to be said with these terms. So, lets define it:

skilled labor (noun)

1. labor that requires special training for its satisfactory performance.
2. the workers employed in such labor.

Now that we know what we are trying to say, what are we saying? The focus of course in the recent dialogues has been on manufacturing skilled labor and the profound shortages of workforce in these areas. Indeed, “shovel ready” jobs aside, people need to know how to do those jobs or they will not get done, “shovel ready” or not.
However, lets pull out one of the other issues I feel we’re not addressing, perception.
Using the above definition, EVERY job is skill based. From dentists to welders, from artists to astronauts, all require skill sets, yet, we only assume we’re discussing this in terms of a narrow view point. I believe it is now time to broaden this approach.
Recently, Mike Rowe, of Discovery Channels “Dirty Jobs” spoke to this issue before a panel of politico’s. I invite you to watch and consider.
Eric
Categories: Uncategorized

Myths…

February 4, 2012 Comments off

I was looking over a local private school’s web site recently and found their “Career Development” page. Interested in what is being said, I clicked on the link. What I found summarized the situation are region currently is facing. To spare any embarrassment to the school or its individuals, I will not post the exact link, so you will have to take my word. However, from what I have gathered from other professionals in Economic and Workforce Development, this mind set is very common within the region.

The presentation as I found was designed for 8th grade students and their parents. This is a very important age and grade as these students are transitioning to high school, planning classes and considering options. It should be an exciting time and a fantastic way of reaching out and invigorating families. Sadly, the presentation was geared for only one thing, college. No options of any other possible career pathways were given to these eager (and anxious) students. There was little mention of a path that did not include college, most specifically a four year degree. To add to the overwhelming nature of this process, a curriculum guide was given to the families as well. This guide listed the courses recommended…a “Fast Track” and a “Super Fast Track” to college…or, “how to get out of the area as fast as possible…”

My point in bringing this up is that the myth that college is the ONLY option is so prevalent, so engrained, that we do not bring up any other scenarios to students. We assume that indeed college is the only option to the point of mass batching students at such young ages. We know, based on everything we’ve been hearing, that this is the wrong approach, that the process is much more dynamic then a one size fits all mentality.

E-

Viva The Patent Clerk

January 7, 2012 Comments off

We all recall that  Albert Einstein’s first big career move was as a Swiss patent clerk.

Oh the patent clerk, perhaps viewed upon at the time as the most menial of Swiss civil professional roles. Einstein struggled, even within this career at first, being denied a promotion (how would you like that on your resume, “Denied promotion to Albert Einstein”).

A patent office….hmmm. As our country recovers from this “Great Recession” as it is now known, perhaps the answer to our problem does not lie within a great lecture hall or capital rotunda, but within our own US Constitution.  In fact, check out Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution.

In 1787, the first Constitutional Convention approved (with a unanimous vote) what became the “patent clause”. This obscure little clause authorized the new US government to: “promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

It is also interesting that by the early 1800’s, the United States was issuing more patents then our nation of origin, Great Britain and that those patents were leading to job creation and job growth…increasing our overall economic might.

We’ve been a nation of innovators since the birth of this country with the first colonies. We’ve adapted, we’ve changed, we’ve grown and we’ve made mistakes and learned from that. Those mistakes have allowed our creative classes to ask new questions about old problems. The stereo-typical inventor of the past (either Thomas Edison or Professor Philip Brainard from the movie Flubber) allowed themselves to do just that, ask a new question about an old problem.

That old problem (whether it be career, where to find a cure for cancer, how to grow tomatoes better, or even our education system) begs to be revisited again with a fresh perspective. Those that ask the questions, and can be allowed to nurture their ideas, will be the ones to lead us all into a new era of this country.

Eric

High School Students

January 6, 2012 Comments off

There was a recent article in BigThink that caught my eye.

“High school students know that their learning isn’t relevant.”

And there in lies an interesting conundrum. Our best and brightest in schools, and I’d say at all grade levels, are leaving this experience feeling marginalized, uninspired, bored and like their time is not valued.

As an “adult” if we feel our time is wasted in work, or our talents are being marginalized, we often times start the job search process to change directions. Yet, when the discussion of public vs. private, or homeschooling or on-line schooling comes up, everyone is quick to run to there corners and assume the warrior stance.

It goes back the new “Three Rs”–Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships” (see Richard D. Jones, The Process of Change–Why Change, What to Do, and How to Do It). Students see relevance (and lack there of) in their day to day interactions with instructional staff and administrative staff. Have we ever surveyed these students to see what their take would be?

If we are to assume that we continue to learn and develop over time (which is what most of the theories point to), why do we assume that the educational environments that we learn and develop within should not develop either?

Eric

Creativity, Longevity and 2012

December 13, 2011 Comments off

Granted, I am a few weeks early on welcoming 2012, however, its time for a new start once again.

Its hard to believe that I’ve been dabbling on this blog for four years now. There have been slow changes in many things along that time, yet, the “big and new” has yet to occur. Our region still struggles with its identity and purpose. Leadership is fleeting with people jumping at new opportunities instead of holding a course for a long period of time. We still struggle with the creative sides of our brains, fearful that “staying put” means stagnation.

Yet, there is good news….visionaries do exist…perhaps the tide is rising slowly for us all.

Eric

Categories: Uncategorized

Tried and True

September 14, 2011 Comments off

Found a very interesting article in WIRED magazine…regarding starting a business. The fact of the matter is that most start ups are not about timing, its about persistence and delivering quality products.

The essence of creativity is allowing oneself to adapt and change. The reality is that we rarely allow ourselves these opportunities to fail and rebuild from that opportunity.

Enjoy the read…

Eric

 

Categories: Uncategorized
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