March 4, 2015

In order to be effective at developing highly qualified front-line workers, the stigma attached to vocational-technical education must be removed.

In many European countries, an apprenticeship program bestows on its graduates respect for their high level of skill, and those nations recognize this with nationally accepted certification. But in America, the vo-tech track is, too often, perceived as dead-end — catering to society’s most disadvantaged by providing a minimum of skills designed to be used as a safety net from poverty.

However, I recently re-discovered two articles that intelligently address this issue from differing points of view. Both are worth your reading time.

The first was written by Henry Allen, “The Knowledge Class vs. The Factory Class,” and appeared in The Washington Post. Here’s an excerpt:

“ . . . The new class (“The Knowledge Class”) talked about intelligence as if it were a moral virtue along the lines of courage or patience, even though intelligence is only a tool with no more moral virtue than a crowbar. Acing the SATs became tantamount to sainthood.

The country seemed seized by the glamour of brains. Working-class heroes vanished from television sitcoms. By 1971, Ralph Kramden, Jackie Gleason’s big-hearted bus driver in “The Honeymooners,” would become Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker, the blue-collar bigot.

An essay published by the Museum of Broadcast Communications said: “The movement of working-class people to the periphery of television’s dramatic worlds” in favor of the upper classes gave ‘the impression that those not among these classes are deviant.’

The impression remains, as contempt or condescension. Here’s Walter Russell Mead, a noted policy scholar, saying in a recent blog posting that revolutions in information technology create ‘the potential for unprecedented abundance and a further liberation of humanity from meaningless and repetitive work.’

I’d thought these revolutions had liberated stand-ups from this work by throwing them out of it, but what caught my eye was the “meaningless and repetitive.” What an odd thing to say — Mead might just as well be describing what it’s like to be a stockbroker or a big-firm lawyer. He isn’t, though, because these are knowledge-class jobs, and this rap about ‘meaningless’ is usually reserved for the stand-up class.’ “

The second excerpt comes from a blog by Karin Lindner, “Addressing the Skills Trades Shortage,” and appeared in ChemInfor:

“We have to communicate to our young people and their parents that manufacturing has a future in this country and what it will look like. It’s our role and responsibility to create this vision and to communicate this vision. Let’s be more observant where we can find young talent, and let’s utilize their power of creation and imagination to the benefit of our country.

We have to help people realize that learning can be fun when you stay open-minded and curious about everything you see throughout the day. Curiosity cannot only be fun, but it will also benefit our work environments in many new and exciting ways as we embark on a new manufacturing era.

It is having a passion for what you do that makes a job sexy. We cannot manufacture passion, but we can educate, inspire, lead and succeed. . . .

We are the subject matter experts. We are the teachers. We are the ones who lead by example. We are the ones who need to be dissatisfied with the current status quo, take on the challenge and make improvements. We have to create change.

This change will start with every single one of us, because if we don’t get better, someone else will. And if we don’t make manufacturing more attractive to today’s youth, we will lose this potential pool of labor to another sector or another country.”

The ideas expressed in these two articles are important for all of us to think about. I hope you will find the time to read them.

More on Monday – – –

— Bill Walton: co-Founder, ITC Learning
www.itclearning.com/blog/ (Mondays & Wednesdays)