My friend and HR Pro, Kris Dunn, is fond of saying – “The world needs ditch diggers to”.
I got into a conversation with a couple HR pros recently regarding helping them find ways to find ‘unskilled’ talent for their company. Today’s ‘unskilled’ doesn’t really mean having no skills – it means the person didn’t have to go to a four year college and get a degree to do the job! What they need, also, wasn’t professional skilled trades – people who have to go through a certification process – plumbers, electricians, pipe-fitters, toolmakers, CNC machinists, etc. We talked about a number of various marketing and employment branding things they could do to steal people from their competitors, etc., but the conversation for me always goes back to root cause.
Why? Why can’t a company find semi-skilled labor when we have millions of unemployed people in this country? Why?
Root cause? Our society makes kids believe they only have two options when coming out of high school!
1. College/University route
I’m not joking! If you look at what our country is doing to public education it’s completely insane. A kid, who obviously doesn’t want to go the college route, has very little opportunity to learn a skill, or begin to learn a skill, before he or she graduates. When I was in school, I was college bound from the start (underlying meaning – Timmy didn’t like manual labor!). Still I was ‘forced’ to take multiple classes in my middle and high school around the skill trades. I took wood shop and some basic auto repair class – but I had friends that spent most of their time learning how to weld, electrical work, rebuilding engines, etc. None of these people are unemployed now! The schools started early to identify kids who had the ‘knack’ for these skilled professions.
I have two high school boys right now. Great students – neither of which have ever really lifted a tool, used a saw, a drill, changed oil in a machine, etc. They have almost zero opportunity to do this in their school setting. So, is public education the problem? No. We are the problem. We equate success with college graduation. We equate ‘doing better’ with a white collar job. We equate importance to society by having a title and a desk. I feel lucky my boys are good students. I should feel lucky if my kids are passionate about learning a trade – professional or skilled! Something has to change and it’s not our schools – it’s our mentality to what success looks like in our society. I find myself envious of my auto mechanic, of my electrician and my plumber – I wish I had half their skills! I would be proud if my son came and said he wanted to be a toolmaker. Those are great jobs and skills to have, and as the baby boom generation continues to leave the workforce – more and more of those ‘skilled’ professionals are going to be needed.
As Aristotle said, “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.”