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21st Century Jobs … Where are the Skilled Workers?


Fridays are my fun creative day where I get to play entrepreneur and create a new business. As superman, I can make anything possible. To kickoff this day and charge my super powers I read a blog article, “What Makes a Serial Entrepreneur” by Sir Richard Branson.


The article starts out “There’s no better feeling than having an idea for a business and seeing it come to life. It’s why many entrepreneurs (including yours truly) can’t help but go on to try and explore other business ideas once they’ve had their first success story.”


With a few successful start-ups in the rear view mirror and a few more in the making, I must admit that the attributes of a serial entrepreneur are in my DNA. Anyone that has created and operated a successful business can relate to the analogy of super powers, as that is what it takes to survive in business. The joy of succeeding as an entrepreneur is so dam rewarding, that most will never retire!


For example, this morning I woke up with this very big problem to try and solve. There is a surplus of under- utilized talent, while businesses are experiencing a shortage of Workers Ready to Work the 21st Century jobs. This is a serious constraint on business and the economy. If we solve this problem, there will be more successful knowledge based start-ups, companies will better be able to deliver services, enabling the economy to grow. Ok let’s go!


Start with Why


Why do we not have a good system to predict and match industry demand for skilled workers? Why are people with eighteen years of education not employable? Why do employers need to invest considerable time and resources closing the gap between capabilities and getting to being a contributing member of the team?


Based upon the experience of starting a building industry, project management and engineering consulting company that specialize in high performance, green buildings, there has been a 20-year scarcity of talent for controls, commissioning, energy modelling, design facilitation, lean construction and the list could go on.


There is no Green Building, Project Management and Commissioning university. At Integrated Designs we needed to make a significant investment, preparing people to provide these services. This can be risky business as we lost many trained employees to poaching by a hungry industry. How we survived was finding a fountain of retiring talent from Honeywell Controls, one of my old employers.


This inability to find this specialized talent severely limited our capacity and the ability to grow. This same story would be true for many businesses.


What is the Monster Under the Bed?


In his 1994 book “Monster Under the Bed”, futurist Stan Davis made the prediction that business and business-driven learning are likely to assume the major responsibility for the kind of education, necessary for any country to remain competitive in the knowledge economy.


The story begins with Megan, who was five years’ old, who created a movie on her computer about the scary monster under her bed and how she wanted to get rid of it. The child was the star, wrote the screenplay, created the visuals, did the editing, was the producer and editor editor, did her own distribution and was successful in creating an amazing production. To Megan, it was all play.


Somewhere along the way, the creative, integrated play that enabled Megan to be a child genius is pounded out of us and we are left with a disintegrated set of skills that don’t match what is needed or will let the worker succeed at something they can be good at.


Where did that Genius go?


Megan had a real life problem she needed to solve. She needed to show and tell everyone about the Monster so it would move to her brother’s room. She has a project, she had a child’s movie making system and nobody told her that she needed ten other people to help make this movie.


Can we get back to play based learning, be creative in solving real business problems, so we can start being that kid genius again? You would think that after a two-year technology school, three years of engineering and two years of MBA that I would not need to learn 80% of what I needed to know on the job, post education. I should have been more capable entering the work force than this.


This sucks!


The reality is that MBA schools are producing grads that can not pull together a business plan. This sucks! Upon graduation, I still needed to learn 80 % of what it takes to run a business like entrepreneurship, operating systems, small business accounting, sell your business skills, from the school of hard knocks.


The same goes for engineering schools that produce green engineers (not the type required at Integrated Designs) that have logic and problem solving skills, but with very limited project or applied engineering skills. Graduate engineers tend to operate in siloes of scope, have very poor project management skills and communicate with engineer talk and tend to need significant finishing before they can become productive. For my first job out of Engineering School after 6 years of post secondary education, I still needed a six-week boot camp in Minneapolis, plus a one-week Project Management course in New York to make me ready to go to work.


The bottom line is that too many graduates that are smart, talented and hard working, are not adequately prepared to enter the work force as they do not have applied knowledge or practical experience required by industry. To get a new employee work ready takes a significant investment. For Integrated dDesigns we would burn a minimum of six months’ salary, before the employees would start to pull their weight as a contributing member of the team.


What are the alternatives?


I learned about Make School from one of my windsurfing buddies, who has a daughter that went to work for this new type of school in San Francisco. Their vision is to redesign higher education for the 21st Century.


Make School is helping to close the gap between industry specific skills set requirements and talent, by customizing an IT industry education program to produce Workers ready to go to Work. They solve this problem in a unique way by enabling talented people without the means to attend University and the opportunity to land a six figure salary.


With IT workers very much in demand, Make School is so confident with their product that they trade knowledge and skill set development for future payment. The Make School vision of redesigning higher education for the 21st century, enables IT companies to get rid of the Monster Under the Bed.


When doing a Google search for for Finishing School, I came across Edge - New Age Finishing School that offers job oriented programs by Industry Experts, to make ready workers with degrees that are not yet employable.


At Shift2Lean we are are looking at these innovative new ways to develop fully integrated building industry skills. We see the future of building construction, needing a Make School or Finishing School to fix a broken building industry that only converts 10% of effort into value added product.


The online “Taking the Fast Lane to Project Success” workshop is a good step in this direction as it enables workers to go to work with a playbook of systems, needed to deliver a successful project. This knowledge based system enables design and construction companies to make more efficient use of the valued journeyman, engineers and construction workers, further helping to solve the shortages of skilled workers in the industry.


The Lean Project Certification program tests workers to ensure they understand operating systems, principles and practices that would be considered best practices for the building industry. These best practice can lead to 30% efficiency improvements, helping not only address the shortage of workers issue, but also creating a 21st century, strategic competitive advantage.


When the rate of change outside exceeds the rate of change inside, the end is in site – Jack Welsh, chairman & CEO, General Electric 1995


Watch for future blogs where we further explore how to build on the Make School concept to rid our self of that Monster Under the Bed and get back to being that child genius with a full play book of integrated skills, that are in demand by 21st century business.

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