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Punctuality and Personal Hygiene Are Job Training Achievements? How Far Have We Fallen?

Job creation might finally be on the uptick but Elaine Chao, former Secretary of Labor, reminded participants attending the 2011 Human Capital Institute Summit,
last month that we actually need 200,000 net new jobs per month just to keep up
with our growing population. (That’s not so bad compared to China, where
they need 25 million net new jobs per year just to keep up with their
growing population.) 

New jobs and a falling unemployment
rate, despite what the press and political pundits might have you
beleive, aren’t the only things that matters when we look toward an
economic recovery.

The labor participation is still quite
low. According to Chao, we’re only at 62.4 percent, the lowest it has
been in 25 years. Chao describes the reason for the low participation as
a general lack of confidence that people currently have around their
ability to find new jobs.

Chao also confirmed her belief that
American workers still have high education levels and strong skills
sets. It’s just that we don’t have enough of these skilled, educated
workers to fill jobs in the fastest growth areas – Nanotechnology,
Geospacial Technology, Life Sciences, and Healthcare – that will plague
employers for years to come.

Up until this point in her presentation, there wasn’t much to argue with – facts are facts.

Then the tide turned for me. It was
her example of “one of the few great remaining training grounds” – the
fast food industry. I’m not disputing that the industry isn’t doing a
good job. But I find it depressing that she felt their efforts warranted
such attention because the fast food training curriculum must cover
these basics:

  • Punctuality is important.
  • Personal hygiene is important.
  • Anger management/conflict resolution.
  • When the boss tells you something, it isn’t a suggestion!

Is training workers to be punctual and
clean something so compelling that a former Secretary of Labor feels
it’s worthy of commendation? Has our education and training systems
fallen so far that timeliness and cleanliness are significant
achievements? When we’re talking about finding a way to ramp up the
skills of workers so that we can compete effectively in a changing
global marketplace, shouldn’t we be recognizing companies or industries
that excel at training workers to think creativity, solve complex
problems, manage virtual teams, or deliver outstanding customer service?

The state of our workforce may be
improving but if training punctuality and personal hygiene is the best
example of good job training we can offer, we will be seriously
outmanned in our efforts to compete in a global economy.

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