Unemployment figures dropped again last month asshortages of engineers and technicians continue toplague American corporations. US Department of Laborstatistics released today indicate that while sales andservice jobs are in abundance, the shortfall of trainedengineers and technicians is approaching a crisis level.Shortages of engineers and technicians, shortages ofengineers and technicians, shortage of engineers andtechnicians.
To much of American business, the future is today. Alongwith a vivid changes in the complexion of the applicantpool. There is a tremendous mismatch between workersskills and available jobs. Employment experts tell us thatthe fast job growth will be mainly in highly skilledoccupations. The tasks of designing, and building,maintaining, and operating complex machines, highspeed information processors, and other advances intechnology will require more specific knowledge,problem solving ability, high reading, and math skills.
The question for American industry is, will the workersbe available, and will they be ready? Unfortunatelyindications are that the future holds an increase in thedemand for highly skilled labor. While at the same timethere exists a major gap between job availability andqualified applicants to fill them. As recruiters lookharder, and harder for new entry level workers, they willfind mostly minorities and immigrants. Many of whomlack the skills they will need to fill the vacancies.
Nationally when we looked at what will happen to thecountry on a zero growth rate basis, the National ScienceFoundation said if everything stays the same, and thereis no increase in the production of engineers, they will beclose to three quarters of a million engineers short ofwhat this country needs in 15 years. That’s the year 2005.We don’t know where they’re going to come from. Nowas the population changes, more women into the workforce, more people of color, more immigrants cominginto the workforce or available to come into theworkforce, and that is a major opportunity for thosepeople. There will be jobs available. But those jobs willnot be filled if they don’t have the skills andqualifications. And I’m just talking about engineers now,that doesn’t include the scientific and mathematicalliteracy level of the population, which we also think isquite low.
The US Labor Department doesn’t provide us withpromising forecasts. They predict that as we approachthe year 2000, more, and more workers will have onlylimited verbal and writing skills. Only 20% of the workerswill have the necessary mathematical skills to computeprice lists and read merchandise catalogs. Only fivepercent of the new employee pool will have more than ahigh school education, with the abilities to readadvanced material, write reports, and use precise andcomplex technical language.
As employers look to minorities to fill their jobs, they arefinding that often minority applicants are lacking inskills. Many times minorities are blocked from jobs thathold any hope for promotion or advancement.
We’d like to offer you a position to hire you.
Bradley Butler, former chairman of Proctor and Gamble,is worried about what this means for our nation’seconomy, unless we do a better job of preparing. In arecent speech before a group of business leaders,educators, and legislators, he had this to say:
The economic growth in this nation will grind to a haltbecause virtually all of the increase in our workforcenumbers, in the next 20 years will be women, minorities.The number of white males entering the workforce willjust about offset the number of white males retiring. Wecan’t have growth in our labor force, unless we do abetter job of preparing our minorities to enter the laborforce. And we are not yet doing it.
If we are going to talk about the future work place. Weneed to focus attention on developing our children, forthe future lies in their skills and talents. Many of ourschools currently have multicultural populations, thesepopulations give us a good snapshot of the work forcefor the year 2000. Encouraging minorities and females toconsider science and mathematics, reaching minoritykids and improving their skill levels, ultimately falls onthe shoulders of our American school system. Yet manyteachers feel they are already being asked to do toomuch. Many minority parents feel that schools aren’tdoing enough. At the same time, the high dropout ratecontinues to fuel this increasingly complex dilemma.
If you want to hear a chorus in common from teachers allover the country, we have to do everything, they’reputting more in our curriculum, and they’re not takinganything away.
I think that the educational institutions in many wayshave failed Hispanics, and Hispanic kids. The interestingthing in our culture is that we’re very respectful, and thatoftentimes works against us. Because we’re not going toconfront that institution with a demand of educating mychild. We will see that my child, or that our children, aregoing to be educated automatically. And that’s not theassumption that we have to have this kind ofenvironment right now. We need to fight for our kidseducation and make that they get it.
You know I remember this teacher Mr. Wilson. And I was avery loud, and I used to fight all the time in school. And Iremember one time I got into a fight with one of theteachers, verbally abusing the teacher. Was getting readyto punch this teacher out. And Mr Wilson came and gotme, took me downstairs, and the teacher said, kick himout kick him out, kick him out. And he said, Singleton Iwant you to cut it out. And he told the teacher, I’ll takecare of this. And he took me downstairs and gave me amop and a bucket. And he said mop the halls and thengo back to school. Because of that teacher I stayed inschool.
But today while you’re here, and then while you’re outdoing your work, we’ll lose 4,000 kids out of our schools.And tomorrow we’ll lose another 4000. Next Monday4000 more, than 4000 thousand more. For every schoolday of the year in this country, we lose 4,000 kids. Froman economic sense, that is 4,000 thousand kids who willnever be able to, most of them will not be able to, enterand produce in the workforce of the 21st century. Whereeven a good high school education is going to be a bareminimum.
50% percent of the school dropouts are in the inner citiesof America. Those blacks that do make it out of theghetto, leave behind hundreds more without any rolemodels to look up to. Few people have steady jobs. Manyblack youths have little incentive to get up on time, andmake it to school. Does this mean that corporations havea responsibility?
In the old days, you could depend upon the family, andchurch, and the community, to reward the work ethic.But you can’t depend on that anymore. And it’s now tothe employers interest to provide resources which willnurture youth in that preparation for positive careers.Because at the same time they’re going to be nurturingthem as they’re ongoing employees. And that’s the meritof partnerships. We have tried to bring together a broadcommunity collaborative involving the schools, theschool superintendent, and chair the board, the mayor,the city council member, chief executive officers of largeand small corporations, the heads of the teachers union,communications workers, and people from communityorganizations such as the church’s, to come together tosay it’s the responsibility of every one of us to supportwork readiness as a learner outcome.
And some people say, for example a few members of theboard of education, gee, isn’t that self serving foremployers? Isn’t it petty to think only for a student aboutemployment? Isn’t that a narrow objective? My responseis that what employers are looking for, we have foundout through our surveys, are the same things thatsupport being a successful adult, or a productive citizen.
If the kids that are leaving our schools and going into theAmerican workforce aren’t prepared the way businessthinks they should be, that doesn’t mean necessarilythat business has this the right to set our agenda orcurriculum. But certainly let us know, and maybe workwith us.
Some of corporate America is getting involved. In somecases they’re providing resources, energy, and influence,to improve education. Why are they getting involved?One answer can be found in the result of a survey of1,800 members of the institute of industrial engineers.Their overriding finding, a poorly educated workforceranks as America’s number one economic weakness.That is why many communities partnerships are beingestablished between schools and businesses. Manybusiness leaders realize that if the schools don’t train theworkforce, the businesses themselves will be spendingto train their entry level workers.
I think that businesses need to take a look internally atdeveloping training programs. Maybe similar to what wehave done with our interns in the clerical area. Maybedifferent and in other companies. But we need to beproactive in ensuring that the people that we’re going tobe hiring in the next decade will meet the skillrequirements that we have our jobs.
One of the most productive ways for business to invest inthe future is to focus on children early, even before theyenter school.
We found that the dropout rate, the failure rate, in ourhigh schools were not responding very well to amultitude of programs that were aimed at fixing thedropout rate in high school. What we did find out alsowas that the best investment that we could identify, ineconomic terms, dollars return for dollars invested, wasnot in more money in our school system, but in moremoney for preschool. Over 50% percent of the childrenentering Chicago’s first grade cannot tell the teachertheir first and last name. And yet we expect thosechildren to enter a first grade curriculum and succeed.And they don’t. And what we learned, in our work at CED,is that children don’t drop out of high school, they dropout of first grade.
Every dollar invested in preschool programs now is aninvestment ensuring that children have opportunities tobe your productive workers of the future. And for theschools, there are a host of issues to be dealt with asthey strive to build our youth self esteem, and preparethem for the workforce.
Women and minorities are conspicuously absent fromour kids’ textbooks. We were there, believe me, we werethere.
I went to an elementary school was over 99% blackchildren. We had no black teachers, no blackadministrators, the curriculum was very, very euro-centric, it was just a very mono cultural education as Icame through the elementary grades. As I moved intojunior high school, there was a little bit more diversity,but not much. In terms of the teachers that I wasexposed to, the administrators, I don’t think I ever wentto a school where there was a black administrator. Iknow that I never went to a school where I had anAmerican Indian teacher. I can remember one AsianAmerican teacher did happen K-12 education. And Inever had a Hispanic teacher either. So having had thatkind of education myself, and knowing how it felt as astudent to be left out of the curriculum, and to only bementioned when we talked about slavery, and the civilwar, and then never again. And we didn’t even haveMartin Luther King at that time. So never hearing aboutyourself, or never seeing yourself reflected in thecurriculum, really gives a big hole in your educationwhich family, and community must fill. And self study, asa young adult, must fill. And that’s a terrible void. Andchildren should not go through the public school system,and never see themselves reflected in their curriculum,and never learn about people who are different fromthemselves.
While many of us are struggling with our biases andassumptions related to cultural diversity, some schoolsare dealing with that issue head on. They are helpingtheir students value the differences around them, andequipping them for the world of which they are a part.
There is a common misconception that multicultural,gender fair education is only for children of color. Andthis is not true whatsoever. We cannot continue tograduate from our schools, culturally, illiterate, whitechildren. They are going to be living in a diverse societyalso, and they must learn how to get along in thatsociety.
Even when diversity isn’t there physically, you’ve got todo with your curriculum. Because as long as we continueto separate out, if we teach a black history month unit forexample, not only are we separating it out in their minds,we are separating it out completely. And I think if you’regoing to do a good job, and an accurate job ofcurriculum, you’re going to talk about American historyfrom the perspective of more than one group of people.
Multicultural gender fair education is not a subject that isoffered once a week for 30 minutes at a particular timethen we’re finished with it. An inclusive educationalprogram means that every one of your subject areas isinfused with this content information and theseconcepts. So that when you teach math, when you teachEnglish, when you teach social studies, it is alwaysincluded.
Our kids need to know about the minorities, and thewomen. Not just the heroes, and the sheroes. But thepioneer women who had difficult things to do all theirlives. I remember in fourth grade, when I went toelementary school in New Mexico, we learned newMexico history. I really remember reading the wordssavages, and those were my ancestors. Those are mypeople that they are referring to in that book. And that’svery wearing on your self esteem.
I don’t want to teach my child how to be white.
Children have a right to their own language and culture.
Don’t be afraid of diversity, and don’t be afraid to knowthat you’re just as human as the next person, and to lookat yourself every so often. Think oh my god, did I reallydo that.
Just as schools need to take initiatives to deal withmulticultural issues, so do businesses. Today’s futurethinking organizations can’t wait for these enlightenedchildren to arrive. Diversity is not just something for thefuture, but a reality now in corporate America. Stepstaken today will ensure that businesses continue tothrive in the future. Investments in training and specialprograms can have major impact.
In the past five years or so, throughout the company,we’ve done a lot of awareness training. In terms of tryingto communicate the priorities is around diversity, andget people to think, and value the importance. So thatawareness is probably there. I’m not sure we’ve gottendown here. In terms of buy in, or acceptance. And I knowthat we haven’t gotten to the skill level of what to doabout it. What do they do, by way of behaviors, thatmight be different than what they did in the past?
I think that it’s important for managers to be supportive.I think it’s important to have top management support,in order to develop some very creative and veryinnovative programs that can meet the needs of all of ourorganizations. It has been important for us to start outvery simple. To try some ideas. To see if they work withinour company. And it might vary from company tocompany. The training programs that were establishing,it’s not only becoming just a nice thing to do, it’s reallycritical to our business success.
As accessibility advocate I want to encourage, basically Iwant to encourage managers and supervisors to not waituntil they got somebody just about ready to start, beforethey start making architectural changes to theirenvironment, to their work site. I guess I want to tellpeople to start now. To look around at the workplace andsay, is there an accessible parking spot? Is there anaccessible entrance? Is there an accessible restroom?And is there an accessible route that connects all thesedifferent elements. It’s real important that people startlooking at the environment now, and making thosedecisions, and starting to make their environment moreaccessible.
One company took a unique approach, as it banked onart to stimulate dialogue, and attempted to try and breakdown cultural barriers.
Well when I was hired in 1908 to begin an art collection,an art program for First Bank Systems, it was because thesenior management of the organization really wanted toposition the company for the deregulated environmentthat was imminently about to arrive.
We primarily bought art which had really to do withpolitical, and religious, sociological, and sexual, issues,and questions, and ideas. It wasn’t hard to do, becausein fact that’s what the art of the 80’s has primarily beenabout. But that was very suited to what we were trying,in fact, to accomplish in the workplace. Which was tocatalyze discussion about issues and ideas of the day. Toget people talking about things, and thinking aboutthings. And thinking about themselves, and thinkingabout other people. In ways that were unfamiliar tothem, at least in so far as work was concerned.
But it was management’s real belief that by bringingthose kinds of ideas into the arena of work, we might beable to provoke within people a creative spirit, and asense of their own kind of personal diversity, and of thekind of growing diversity of the world.
People began to learn about the broad differences. Thegreat range of differences amongst themselves. Art,because it was dealing with hard issues, political issues,sexual issues, social issues, brought out all sorts of verystrong, impassioned responses from people. And aspeople revealed themselves to each other, they began todiscover that in fact there was a great range of diversityamong them.
Value in diversity at all levels, and on all fronts, is what itwill take to make our lives, our institutions, ourbusinesses, and our schools, truly multicultural.
Hopefully, at some point in the future when everything isperfect, it won’t matter what you are, or who you are,just what you can do.
If you want to know what diversity is, look in the mirror.And each of you are members of the diverse workforce.
There is a better reason to do it, and that reason is whatit means to be an American. Because if you think aboutit, this nation of ours is not like most all other nations. Itis not a race. It is not a place. It is not a religion. It is notan ancestry. It is not a culture. It isn’t even clearly adefined geography that defines America. America hasbeen many geographies. And it is many races, andlanguages, and ancestors, and religions. None of thethings that normally define a nation define us. Whatdoes? One thing and one thing only, and that is a visionof what a nation ought to be.
Charles Kuralt, the roving television reporter who knowsAmerica well, recently made a penetrating comment, thiscountry is more than the sum of its headlines.Humanness, and decency, and the will to justice, haveactually become stronger than ever in our national life.The public has a conscience, it’s an important story. It isthis conscience that will have the greatest impact on ourmosaic workplace. It is this conscience that will lead usfrom indifference to action, from ideals to solutions.
All of us in our present civilization are dependent uponone another to a degree never before known in thehistory of humankind. And in the long run, we are goingto go up or down together. As we Americans, one in all,celebrate diversity, as we celebrate the beauty of ourmosaic workplace.