America we have a problem! We are losing the global skills game. If you are a kid wondering if school is worth it, read on and prepare to be shocked. People are passing you by.
As I have traveled the world I have seen how motivated their children are to excel and get high grades and the most education possible. They love learning.
Yet I see many American kids barely making it out of high school while thinking that they had “made it.” That would have been true until the computer age arrived, but not in today’s global high-tech economy.
Our kids seem to be sleep-walking through life on easy street (with a lot of helicopter parenting). It’s as if they think big money will just “happen” because they have the illusion they will be a football player or rock star and hitting the video game is more important than hitting the books. Get real.
I have to warn our youth that they are being passed in high- tech skills by kids in other countries who want to escape poverty so badly they work harder than you can imagine. In China the school day can be 12 hours long.
So they are getting as much education and skills as possible–and because of it they are getting jobs Americans aren’t qualified to fill! Over 3 million of them are sitting there and our kids can’t get them unless they upgrade their skills.
Today kids from China and India are filling American high tech jobs because American companies can’t find enough Americans with those skills. Right now there about 3 million of these jobs available, but companies have to end up recruiting overseas for the jobs here — or send the work there — because our work force doesn’t have the skills and can’t compete. It’s not about pay, its about being skilled enough to do the work.
If you don’t believe me, do your own research because I have worked with this over 30 years and seen the technology advancement in 50 some countries first hand. I saw China go from behind us to catching up and passing us in key technologies while we act like the over-confident hare sleeping by the road as the tortoise passed him by. Now, China is more like the energizer bunny on a global scale.
I grew up poor on a farm. That experience motivated me to get as much education as possible because I knew I wasn’t going to inherit any money and being a non-profit farmer the rest of my life sounded as exciting as cutting off an arm. My ticket out of poverty was an accounting and law degree.
When I first went to China for negotiations in 1982 I met a young man my age who was making $30 a month as a Chinese negotiator, basically the same pay as everyone else in China! Men and women wore the same ugly blue shirt and pants. Within a few years two of them had moved to the U.S. and one got a law degree. Today, China has nearly as many millionaires and billionaires as we do! (They junked socialist economics for capitalism.)
Imagine 1 billion young people just like him in China today, and another 1 billion in India (the world’s largest democracy) today. These two countries each have 1.3 BILLION people (over 2 billion total) who want to get into the middle class or better. They are doing it by getting high-tech skills, not by selling you timeshares and burgers at minimum wage or running call centers.
Tariffs won’t fix our lack of skills or our trade imbalances — all they do is raise prices on consumers and kill jobs from the extra costs they pass on to American companies who pass those costs on to you and me as the end buyer. Tariffs don’t raise our peoples’ skills to make us more competitive.
If we want to win the future that is already here — a world of rapidly changing technology on a global scale, we must upgrade our next generations skills. Rather, YOU KIDS must upgrade your skills or get dust blown in your face byyour global competitors. They won’t mind kicking sand in our collective face when they pass us.
Much of this is due to lack of investment by the GOP in education and skills training that Democrats fight for knowing they are the key to our success. We have people in Congress who know so little science they think this 4 billion year old planet is only 5,000 years old! The Chinese have a 5,000 year history and know better than that fable.
If our youth today don’t light a fire under themselves they will end up like a lot of kids I had working for me the past couple years who just couldn’t cut working even in an inside job in air conditioning with training.
My company offered training but they ones who came had practically no skills which I could live with. All they had to do was try and do a good job. Wow. That was asking a lot. What I could not live with is the lack of work ethic many had.
Most of them ended up being laid off because showing up for work everyday and doing a good job each time seemed too much to ask. I would be given false reports on who showed up at what time. Some would say stupid things in front of clients (like commenting how attractive a woman was and not have a clue it was inappropriate until I let him have it.) Most were in their late 20’s and early 30’s. A bunch didn’t have ID’s.
It hired a mix of ethnic backgrounds but most of them turned out to be white kids with just high school. Sadly, I discovered that too many of them turned out to have serious drug issues – things like being an alcoholic who gets drunk on night 1 of a 5 day project, passes out and misses day 2. Gone! Some would come in and appear to have been on meth all night and acted like a zombie. Bye!
Some seemed to love a weekly xanax night so they would call in “sick” Monday — if they called in. Gone! Some were on opioids and could not get off and stole from me. Fired! Some were just liars or lazy. A couple were narcissist who created chaos and did crazy stuff. When I terminated them, the chaos ended.
After all the sifting and sorting out of people I ended up with some really talented, honest, skilled people but the ratio is about 2 out of 20 — or less. Corporations who are willing to train say that they have to reject over 80% of the applicants because they don’t have enough math or reading skills to be trainable to run the computerized machines!
America, it is time for some “tough love” if you really want your kid to succeed because letting little Johnny grow up in the basement playing video games all night in his 20’s is not going to make America great, or even a winner. How will that help him (or her) once the parents die and aren’t around anymore and they don’t know what being independent is like?
China is building MagLev high speed rail capable of 265 miles per hour while our trains wheels come off at 80 and our infrastructure falls apart from neglect and old age.
We need to become the highly trained builders that our fathers were if we are to carry on the American tradition of a rich democratic country with the best labor force in the world.
We won’t be No. 1 much longer with a work force of the unskilled and unmotivated, who may be blaming immigrants for there lack of success when the problem is looking at them in the mirror. In fact, for centuries it was immigrants who fueled our success with their innovation and hard work. This is why we need their energy to keep us in the winners circle.
Food for thought…Pass it on if you care about our future.
Michael Fjetland, BBA/JD, Author
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