An old song School Days, School Days referred to readin’, and riten’ and ‘rithmetic, it was written around 1907 by Edwards and Cobb. Around the 1980’s “plus C” was verbally added to this notion of a complete education, “C” being the symbol for computers. Even though there were issues or challenges of language communication within the U.S. educational system, reading and writing and arithmetic and later computers seemed to work for the masses. The Germans, Italians, Swedes, Irish, Poles, and Latin Americans who immigrated to Chicago, IL, appeared to “get it.” Get an adequate education that is. What has happened? Why does Chicago contain a local population of possibly 53% illiteracy? We have a three “Ls” issue: language, literacy, and learning capability. My best friend taught 1st grade for 25 years in the parochial school system in Chicago. One time she told me she had 10 different languages in the classroom. I asked her how she could teach a student with whom she could not communicate. She said “Very patiently.”
Somewhere along the line, the educational system broke down and we have never been able to rebuild it properly. In the training and development field, we, the instructional designers, are taught to separate “need to know” from “nice to know”. It’s a grueling part of the design process when gathering information and knowledge to include in a job training event or lesson. The “need to know” items are called the enabling components of a training event. In other words, in order to train a mechanic how to tune-up a Ford Focus car, what are all the items that are involved in the tune-up, how do they properly work, how do they sound or look or feel when not properly working, what tools are needed to do the tune-up job properly, how do you properly use each tool to perform the tune-up. You get the idea.
If the population is not prepared with what instructional designers call the “prerequisite knowledge”, they will not succeed in being properly trained, given that the training event is properly defined. The trainee or learner must bring adequate language, level of literacy and learning skills to be successful. If a car is out of alignment, it is adjusted and realigned to put it back on the right track. Think of a scaffold and its supporting ladders. The scaffold is the minimum knowledge required by the learner to successfully fulfill a training event. Every rung of the ladder BELOW the scaffolding is the enabling knowledge required by the learner. If any rungs on the ladder are missing or broken, it’s a problem for the worker climbing the scaffolding ladder. It’s the same for the learner, no amount of repeat training events will aid the learner if he/she does not speak English adequately, read English at the appropriate level, and of course have the capability to perform at the expected level of learning capability.
There are solutions to the current American employment dilemma. We need long term solutions not quick start band aids. U.S. companies need certain skilled labor now, the short-term needs are possibly clouding the long-term vision. Unfortunately there are unemployed that cannot be re-trained for needed jobs. There are certainly others who can be re-trained but they need time to travel through the necessary “learning curve” for the available jobs. We are challenged as to how to aid Corporate America to have available now the appropriate candidates to meet their needs yet allow for the internships or apprenticeships necessary to train those who are “trainable.” There are those who suggested that something like the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the 1930’s be reestablished to put the unemployed to work. Some of that probably wouldn’t be a bad idea either. It really isn’t a good idea to have unemployed collecting money and not doing anything. A person’s ego comes so much from the idea of self-worth and that comes from working.
I hope that you have enjoyed reading my series about jobs training issues. Since I spent part of my life teaching adults and designing job training experiences, I guess this particular subject has been my passion. The advents of the “Personal Computer Age” and on its heels, the “Internet Age” have rocked the world economically, physically, and psychologically, not just intellectually. May I quote from Yoda, “May the Force be with you.” In this case, I mean the force of knowledge, intelligence and education for everyone.
Here are links to the rest of my “Jobs” series: