Category Archives: Education

The Employee Void

“Too many of the young adults who seek employment with me want to show up, go through the motions and get paid,” an experienced business owner shared with me. He was very frustrated that although he had work available the majority of his prospective applicants had no intention of actually doing any work. He had run into this time and time again.

That conversation led to this article. For the past month or so I have polling business owners, supervisors and former business owners asking for their comments to one simple question, “What skill do you find most lacking in the potential employees you meet?” I had nearly 100 responses from a variety of sources. The results are very troubling.

The top issues noted are lack of critical thinking skills, lack knowledge of the trade, lack of passion for their trade and lack of work ethic. Out of these four only one is technical knowledge; the rest are soft skills that are transferable to any other job and high useful in their day to day life. The rest of the list encompassed thirteen other undesirable qualities and all of them are soft skills.

Critical thinking skills are those qualities that tell you to hand a knife cautiously, or tell you not to grind stone near the clients car, or how about the kid who didn’t know the difference between wetting the floor and actually mopping it. Unfortunately too many workers especially those with substandard education do not engage their work. They merely complete tasks without thinking of the end goal.

Knowledge in the trade means just that. If you say you are cook you should know about cooking. The same goes for any other trade. One supervisor shared this with me, “candidates aren’t willing to put in the time to learn their trade, but they demand the high pay.”

Those who listed a lack of passion for their trade explained that too many people are looking for a job without really knowing what they are looking for or why. Too many aren’t willing to learn their trade because their heart isn’t in it. Imagine if your doctor had this attitude. Work conversations should be more about work related matters and not gossip.

The biggest flaw, by far, is lack of work ethic. Unfortunately I have witnessed this all to often, not just in the work place. Many of the young people I have mentored have failed to work hard in school, on an athletic team and once they hit the work force the problem continues. Except that now they have entered the adult world and second chances are few.

Many of the young people I have mentored have had all the answers for their behavior. The most frequent excuse is “they ain’t paying me enough.” I have taken my time to patiently explain that in the world of grown ups we have to earn our keep by producing enough revenue to merit a raise. No one gives a raise simply because you need it. However, most of my explanations have fallen on deaf ears or another excuse has surfaced.

“Too many young people are not future focused. They do not understand that the pace of change will never be slower then it was today.” A business owner shared this statement with me. He is correct. There are too many young adults who do not understand how life works. So who is to blame? Is it the parenting they received or the lack of parenting? The biggest influence in the life of all human beings is their parents. Let’s start there. Many of the young men I have mentored do not have the understanding of the world, ways of the world and what is required to live their dreams. They merely exist. They enter the workforce with little understanding of what it is to build a career and plan for the future. They are like pinballs in the work force. It is easy o say that they need to get a clue, but it is difficult to change the culture they were raised with and morph it into something they don’t understand and therefore doubt. The answers lie in one-on-one guidance of a trusted friend.

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The Employee Void

“Too many of the young adults who seek employment with me want to show up, go through the motions and get paid,” an experienced business owner shared with me. He was very frustrated that although he had work available the majority of his prospective applicants had no intention of actually doing any work. He had run into this time and time again.

That conversation led to this article. For the past month or so I have polling business owners, supervisors and former business owners asking for their comments to one simple question, “What skill do you find most lacking in the potential employees you meet?” I had nearly 100 responses from a variety of sources. The results are very troubling.

The top issues noted are lack of critical thinking skills, lack knowledge of the trade, lack of passion for their trade and lack of work ethic. Out of these four only one is technical knowledge; the rest are soft skills that are transferable to any other job and high useful in their day to day life. The rest of the list encompassed thirteen other undesirable qualities and all of them are soft skills.

Critical thinking skills are those qualities that tell you to hand a knife cautiously, or tell you not to grind stone near the clients car, or how about the kid who didn’t know the difference between wetting the floor and actually mopping it. Unfortunately too many workers especially those with substandard education do not engage their work. They merely complete tasks without thinking of the end goal.

Knowledge in the trade means just that. If you say you are cook you should know about cooking. The same goes for any other trade. One supervisor shared this with me, “candidates aren’t willing to put in the time to learn their trade, but they demand the high pay.”

Those who listed a lack of passion for their trade explained that too many people are looking for a job without really knowing what they are looking for or why. Too many aren’t willing to learn their trade because their heart isn’t in it. Imagine if your doctor had this attitude. Work conversations should be more about work related matters and not gossip.

The biggest flaw, by far, is lack of work ethic. Unfortunately I have witnessed this all to often, not just in the workplace. Many of the young people I have mentored have failed to work hard in school, on an athletic team and once they hit the workforce the problem continues. Except that now they have entered the adult world and second chances are few.

Many of the young people I have mentored have had all the answers for their behavior. The most frequent excuse is “they ain’t paying me enough.” I have taken my time to patiently explain that in the world of grown ups we have to earn our keep by producing enough revenue to merit a raise. No one gives a raise simply because you need it. However, most of my explanations have fallen on deaf ears or another excuse has surfaced.

“Too many young people are not future focused. They do not understand that the pace of change will never be slower than it was today.” A business owner shared this statement with me. He is correct. There are too many young adults who do not understand how life works. So who is to blame? Is it the parenting they received or the lack of parenting? The biggest influence in the life of all human beings is their parents. Let’s start there. Many of the young men I have mentored do not have the understanding of the world, ways of the world and what is required to live their dreams. They merely exist. They enter the workforce with little understanding of what it is to build a career and plan for the future. They are like pinballs in the workforce. It is easy o say that they need to get a clue, but it is difficult to change the culture they were raised with and morph it into something they don’t understand and therefore doubt. The answers lie in one-on-one guidance of a trusted friend.

To Read or Not to Read

Reading is perhaps the most vital skill which all youth must possess. And yet the vast majority of the young men I have mentored do not read. Some, very few at that, become avid readers later in life once the school of hard knocks has dealt them some serious lessons. But could this be the great deterrent to those hard knocks?

We will never know. In most cases, they have had no example of the benefits of reading or of books in their lives. Most of the homes I have ventured into are devoid of books. Children that read are usually the offspring of parents who value reading. It will difficult to be a student of life without an interest in reading.

“Smart” versus Work Ethic

When given the choice between hiring someone who is “smart” and someone with good work ethic, the latter wins every time. There is no sin in being smart or trying to be smarter, but the point is that very few people who are “smart” have poor work ethic. Most of the smart people I have met in my life are people who work hard.

Even in the classroom, I have found the same result. The majority of the teens I have known over the years, the ones who are “smart,” work very hard to earn the grades they receive. I have wondered this outloud for years, “funny how the harder a high school student works, the smarter he is.” Yes it is interesting, indeed.

Living Versus Existing

Living and existing are not the same thing. Many of the young men and women I have mentored have dropped out of high school. Out of the ones I have stayed in touch with most of them have struggled to makes a modest living. Their lack of preparation has left them with minimum wage jobs or dead end jobs.

An education is not an end-all and does not guarantee financial success, but it does open doors of opportunity. Most of my young friends covet a life of excitement and do their best to be happy, but when one lives from paycheck to paycheck or as they say “hand to mouth” there is very little to look forward to other than another day working marathon hours to survive. This is not living. It is merely existing.

No Such Expert

There is no such thing as an expert on youth. Youth culture is dynamic and therefore shifts continuously. It is always  troubling to meet someone who presents themselves as an expert in youth, or makes a claims to know everything there is to know about youth. I much prefer the person who is asking questions, absorbing feedback, reading and opining.

Youth culture continuously shifts, it changes, it is dynamic. The most popular art form with youth culture continues to be music, however reading has also gained great strength; just ask our friend Harry Potter. Rap music has also produced a new and unique brand of poetry and poems. All of this has happened within youth culture. The best we can hope to accomplish in terms of expertise is to be dedicated students of youth culture.

Lessons in a Courtroom

A day in court can emphasize the need to have purpose in your life. For many of my middle class friends the idea that one needs to have purpose in one’s life is a no-brainer. It’s one of those statements that will be met with a sarcastic remark. Something along the lines of, “no kidding,” or worse.

This is not the case for many of the young men and young women I have seen in court. Far too many live in state of stunted animation. There is no planning for a better tomorrow. What comes along, comes along. For many that something is idle time, which indeed is the devil’s workshop. Even if there are thoughts of a goal there is no hurry. Entertainment is king and so goals can wait.