November 10th, 2013
Published in the North Idaho Business Journal October 29, 2013
A few years ago, the Coeur d’Alene Idaho Chamber of Commerce offered its first business-oriented trips to China. This first wave of trips was so popular that three Chamber travel groups sold out back to back. This success was reflective not only of individual travel interest, but also desire for business opportunity by Chamber members. What can we do to create opportunity for the next generation of business and professional leaders?
Only 30 percent of Americans have passports. By contrast, U.K. passport holders are at 75 percent and Canada at 60 percent. Some might argue that there is no reason to leave the USA. I suggest that failure to experience international travel will be damaging to the next generation of America’s professionals and entrepreneurs. Preparing for the global economy, parents and teachers are wise to help young people look beyond local, regional, and even national opportunities. A student may be seeking career pathways, or a young entrepreneur may be searching for foreign markets. In either case, all students benefit from expanding international competence and experience.
Traditionally, Americans have felt self-sufficient with minimal need for such travel. Parents are faced with much demand on resources, but yet providing exposure for students to international experiences can open eyes and opportunities. I’ve advised local students regarding opportunity to teach English in Asia as an activity between high school and university. My experiences with North Idaho College’s customized training project in China persuaded me to send my son to study Mandarin in China between high school and college. We all know of China’s growth. The McKinsey’s report, “Preparing for China’s Urban Billion,” projects that by 2025, China will build more than five million buildings, including 50,000 skyscrapers — equal to 10 New York Cities. That is a lot of people, and just one example. These kinds of travel experiences are very impactful, and support expanded opportunity for students.
A few regional teachers volunteer their time and offer student travel tours with organizations such as Smithsonian’s EF Tours. Teachers do this in order to provide travel opportunity for local students. Career experts point to the ever-increasing number of jobs that most young people will have in their working life. International opportunity can open doors to personal and business relationships that can be rewarding financially as well as socially. As it is in education, there is no substitute for first-hand experience. Project-based learning is superior to abstract learning, and structured on-the-job training is superior to simulation. In the same way, while we have Skype and other social media to aide in international experience, there is no substitute for international travel.
To understand and to sell to other countries, we must experience other countries. International travel has a lasting impact on the world-view of young people. International education can provide a powerful influence as to how we interact with people from different economies and cultures. These experiences will deepen commercial relationships in a global market. Traditionally, student travel has always offered benefits to students:
• Increased confidence
• Improved school performance
• Stronger university and job applications
• Improved professional and business opportunities
When advising young people, students are most concerned about employment and economic well-being. The travel benefit accruing to students for career and business opportunity could be critical in an era where we seek to grow our economy and expand international markets for products and services.
by Robert Ketchum
November 9th, 2013
Media stories about America’s “skills gap” have been frequent, and have generally focused on workers. Are workers to blame? Or do we have a failure to train? Assigning blame does not provide a solution to the problem. A Bloomberg editorial (May 17, 2012) discussed technology driven employment change, and the consequent decline in middle class wages. Recommendations for improvement included the college completion agenda, and even more importantly, the need to prepare trainable workers. Specifically, the worker of the future needs to be trained to be trainable.
College completion is critical for those choosing post-secondary education since time spent collecting college credits without completion of a degree is known to waste financial and human resources. That is why college completion is a big issue at all levels of government.
We all know how a college degree can open the door to a good job, but even if the degree helps land the job, the new employee has almost everything to learn. Being trainable only adds value when employers are willing and able to train new workers effectively. In this economy, employers often profess an unwillingness to train in hope someone else will train their employees, whether government or another employer. In other words, some employers intend to hire only experienced workers! We need trainable workers who can adapt to a changing economy, but are often faced with employers who will not bear the cost of employee training. As a result, employers often complain that despite high unemployment, and availability of educated job applicants, they cannot find anyone who knows the jobs they have available. Are we to believe these people are all un-trainable? Of course not! Many of these applicants have bachelors’ degrees, or other levels of post-secondary education. The problem is that employers are often unwilling or unable to provide needed training. A famous quotation from the Training Within Industry Service says it all: “If the trainee hasn’t learned, the trainer hasn’t trained.”
A Wall Street Journal article from October 2102 titled “Why Companies Aren’t Getting the Employees They Need” made an important point; business should stop complaining about the failure of government-funded education to provide America’s skilled workforce. Why are companies convinced that government will or should solve their training needs?
Expecting easy solutions to skill shortages is based on many years of job applications from mobile baby-boomers who already possessed extensive on-the-job training experience. Large cadres of experienced Baby Boomers solved employer training problems by responding to “help wanted” advertisements. American business is faced with the reality that the days of plentiful skilled baby boomers are quickly ending. It is the companies themselves that must now take on the task of employee training.
Foundational skills, including applied math and applied reading, are among the common core of the educational system. But while educational programs can provide those skills, they cannot front-load the 90 percent of job specific skills that make companies competitive and profitable. On-the-job learning (with or without a formal apprenticeship) is where true job skill learning takes place. Many companies have replaced classroom-based employee training with computer-based training. But this solution alone has proved inadequate in replacing on-the-job training (OJT). This gap between training and work is where structured on-the-job training (SOJT) fits.
The term SOJT was coined by Professor Ron Jacobs, OSU, 1995, who defined it as, “A planned process of developing competence on units of work by having an experienced employee train a novice employee at the work setting or a location that closely resembles the work setting.”
I suggest that employers should take responsibility to develop and manage their own knowledge and skills. Training, or its 21st century replacement, Web-based training, must be followed with SOJT if real learning is to be validated and effective.
We read reports describing a mismatch between workforce skills and the economy’s available jobs. A common recommendation is “more funding for community colleges and technical institutes.” I applaud efforts to increase funding for post-secondary education, but given current constraints in state funding, alternatives must be identified. With the price of post-secondary education rising, and the reality of the costs associated with classroom learning limiting access for many in the workforce, we must ask what other solutions exist.
The Urban Institute and Dr. Robert Lerman have been advocating expansion of the often overlooked but widely proven approach to workforce development, the apprenticeship method. Apprenticeship has been proven effective at a lower cost and with effectiveness equivalent to school-based training. The time might be right to embrace apprenticeship once again. According to Lerman writing in his article What to Do about the New Unemployment, “evidence shows that gains from apprenticeship far exceed even the gains for technical training in community colleges.” Apprenticeship and work-based learning can be enhanced with the addition of structured on-the-job training; SOJT produces important learning gains well beyond typical unstructured OJT.
America is on a paper chase. Many employers, lacking any methodology to assess applicant skills, ask for a degree as a default screening method. While more people than ever before hold degrees and certificates, a college credential is not an assurance of capability to do the job. All this is occurring while we tell young people there is no way to win without college, and we watch while students accrue student debt loads that handcuff their future. The US Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) recently posted guidance that employers requiring a high school diploma as an employee screening tool may be violating the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA.) This guidance letter explains that jobs must now be defined based on necessary worker skills rather than the results of a diploma. This determination could have long-range impact in the use of diplomas as blanket screening tools.
Eighty-five to ninety percent of job knowledge is learned on the job; however, policy leaders and businesses themselves have adopted the message that taxpayers must train workers. America developed all the skills needed to ramp up industry to win WWII in a very short time by conducting needed training within industry and on-the-job using the Training Within Industry Service (TWI.) SOJT builds on the TWI approach. Business has access to the tools (SOJT and Registered Apprenticeship) needed to meet their workforce skill needs. When these tools are used, we will begin to resolve the “skills gap.”
By ROBERT G. KETCHUM, Ph.D.
May 20th, 2012
A Bloomberg editorial (May 17) focused on technology driven employment change, and the decline of middle class wages. The writer’s recommendations to correct the problem included “college completion,” and even more importantly, the need to prepare “trainable” workers. Specifically, the quote at the end of the editorial is:
“…matching people to jobs will need to be done more quickly and with greater flexibility. Education in the U.S. and other advanced economies faces a new and far-reaching challenge. The worker of the future needs to be trained to be trainable.” Bloomberg
College completion is critical for those choosing college since time spent collecting college credits without completion of a degree has been shown to be a colossal waste of financial and human resources. Of greatest interest is the trainable recommendation. This is one of the reasons I see great value in the adoption of the National Career Readiness Certificate.
The central point in my mind is how does trainable add value when so few employers are willing and able to train new workers effectively? I talk to employers who still hope someone else will train their employees, either government or some other employer!
So Bloomberg points out a major conundrum. We need trainable workers who can adapt to a changing economy, but we are faced with employers who do not want to bother training employees. This is why we see article after article where employers complain that despite high unemployment, they cannot find anyone who knows the jobs that are available. Are we to believe these people are all untrainable? Nonsense! Many have bachelors degrees. The problem is that employers are unwilling or unable to provide needed training. This is a discussion that should have national attention. “If the trainee hasn’t learned, the trainer hasn’t trained.”
January 10th, 2012
The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) recently posted guidance that employers requiring a high school diploma, used as a employee screening tool, may be violating the American’s With Disabilities Act (ADA.) This guidance explains that the job must now be defined based on necessary worker skills and detailed as to how the high school diploma matches the job skill criteria. This determination could have long-range impact in the use of diplomas as blanket screening tools. Unlike industry-based certification, diplomas and degrees from schools seldom define demonstrated and assessed skills. This EEOC guidance could speed the adoption of skill-based, industry driven, skill certification. Currently, the US Department of Labor lists over 4,400 industry-based certifications on the Certification Finder at the CareerOneStop.com website. These certifications will rise in importance to employers while education-based credentials may fade. Effective skill development on the job requires a structured approach based on the defined skills used in the workplace. In such a structured OJT workplace, meeting this EEOC guidance will be readily accomplished, and new employees quickly trained in the need skills.
October 26th, 2011
The Wall Street Journal article of October 24 titled “Why Companies Aren’t Getting the Employees They Need” made the important point that business should stop whining about the failure of government funded education to provide America’s skilled workforce. What other government programs have proven to be successful? Why do companies believe government will solve their training needs?
Expecting miraculous solutions to skill shortages is a folly born of the experience for 30+ years of mobile baby-boomers who (with extensive on-the-job training available to be hired) solving company training problems by simply responding to a “help wanted” advertisement. The days of plentiful skilled baby boomers are quickly ending.
The foundational skills of applied math and applied reading are often the limits of the educational system’s reach. Educational programs cannot front-load the 90% of job specific skills that make companies competitive and profitable. On-the-job learning (with or without a formal apprenticeship) is where real learning takes place. Many companies have replaced classroom employee training with computer-based training. This solution hasn’t replaced on-the-job training (OJT). This gap between training and work is where Structured OJT fits. Companies are now compelled to take responsibility to develop and manage their own knowledge and skill environment. Training, or it’s 21st century replacement, web-based learning, must be followed with Structured OJT if real learning is to be timely and effective. This is the only way to address the problem of “getting the employees they need” as highlighted in the Wall Street Journal.
July 28th, 2011
News stories often appear discussing the mismatch between workforce skills and the economy’s available jobs. The common recommendation is “more taxes to community colleges and technical institutes.” The likelihood of that approach occurring is low given limited state funding. And, with the costs of post-secondary education rising rapidly, and the ability to benefit from classroom learning as a constraint for many, what other solutions exist?
The Urban Institute and Dr. Robert Lerman have been advocating for expansion of the overlooked Apprenticeship approach to workforce development. Proven effective at a lower cost and with higher effectiveness than community colleges, the time is right. Quoting Dr. Lerman from “What to Do about the New Unemployment”–“the evidence shows that gains from apprenticeship far exceed even the gains for technical training in community colleges.”
The effectiveness of apprenticeship is multiplied with the addition of Structured On-The-Job Training. Here is a case study that describes how the addition of SOJT to what is commonly only unstructured OJT in an apprenticeship program produces important learning gains as described in this article. So this effective combination is the undiscovered solution. Don’t expect higher education and their apologists for institutionalized learning to recommend this alternative.
July 8th, 2011
During the time I was engaged in training sales and delivery in China, I was impressed as to how important a diploma or certificate was to everyone we met. At the end of a training event; a large and necessarily ornate (usually red and gold) certificate was required. These diplomas and certificates were all important. It was clear that the piece of “papah” was more important than the skills to be trained. This was obvious as we often taught basic management skills to college educated managers.
America is emulating the Chinese in our frenzied paper chase. When talking to college students, you’ll hear again and again–I just need the diploma! Many employers, lacking any method to assess skills, ask for a degree as a default screening method. Degrees and certificates have proliferated to the point where a college credential is no assurance of capability to learn to do the job. All this is occurring while we tell young people there is no way to win without college. Our culture encourages students to accrue student debt load on par with the mortgage crisis. Unfortunately, many students find themselves “underwater” after graduation owing more than the degree is worth in the marketplace.
The “pay for paper rather than skills” problem can be resolved when companies and organizations have analyzed the jobs and tasks that comprise the process used throughout the company or organization. The foundational skills needed on a job can be known (using the WorkKeys system) making it possible to hire truly trainable applicants.
New hire training, and cross training, can then be readily accomplished through the application of Structured OJT. Paying for skills, rather than a piece of paper, would improve our companies and improve our schools. We could save young people, and taxpayers, a lot of money.
June 16th, 2011
The past week produced news regarding President Obama’s speech on the topic of the need to expand manufacturing, and the related need to train the manufacturing workforce. As expected, it is a government funded solution focused on grants, and the need for new money for higher education.
The White House press release is here.
The Aspen Institute has led much of this initiative. Aspen’s leader is tied to the Obama administration. You’ll see the National Association of Manufacturers is involved, as are ACT and others including the Lumina Foundation that is a primary source of the “everyone must go to college” message.
The federal government plan has merit, and makes some important points. However, there is a fatal flaw. That flaw is a self-serving message promulgated by the public higher education enterprise. That flawed message is that higher education trains workers for business and industry. In fact, higher education promotes this message to justify the voracious appetite for tax money and ever higher tuition. The evidence is that about 85 to 90 percent of job knowledge is learned on the job. Education develops the foundational skills (applied math, reading for understanding, etc.) that support on-the-job learning. The USA developed all the skills we needed to ramp up industry to win WWII in a very short time by doing the training within industry using the Training Within Industry Service. The TGK SOJT Trainer System builds on and expands the TWI model.
Policy leaders, and businesses themselves have been misled by the message that taxpayers must train workers. As long as the higher education enterprise persuades business to feel powerless to meet their own needs for a trained workforce–we will struggle with higher education’s demands for ever more money (and we will wring our hands over the nationally escalating tuition costs and low graduation rates.) Manufacturing has the tools (SOJT and Registered Apprenticeship) to meet their workforce skill needs. When these tools are used we will solve the worker training/retraining problem.
I recommend reading a recent column by Mike Collins, author of Saving American Manufacturing, on Manufacturing.Net titled America’s Skilled Worker Shortage: Part II.
June 9th, 2011
“The Ministry of Employment and Labor, Republic of Korea, is now conducting a pilot program to implement structured on-the-job training (S-OJT), especially in small and medium-sized enterprises. While many nations provide financial incentives to encourage use of OJT, the Korean pilot program differs in that it establishes specific requirements on how the OJT should be carried out. That is, in order for companies to be reimbursed from the national training fund, they must first adopt certain standards of training practice. The Korean pilot program will include a range of courses and workshops for company staff, including a certificate program for S-OJT trainers, and a network of field consultants who will provide on-site advice to company staff. The pilot program is being administered through the Korea University of Technology and Seoul National University.” OSU June 2011