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Does a Good Job Start at Home?

July 16, 2013 - Ernest Hohmeyer
We yell out for new jobs for our community. But do we have the people to work them?

Everyone across the board it seems, young or old, resident or 2nd home owner, environmentalist or developer, agrees we need more jobs in the Adirondacks.

Opportunity vs. Availability?

A quieter conversation though, one that perhaps we don’t like to talk about, is that when new jobs come, do we have the workers? After all, how can we hold out the sign “we need an economic boost” if there is a subsequent question, do we have the employees? That reality might make things a bit messy don’t you think?

You hear it and see it all the time though. When a new company comes into town, does it really bring in new people or do we just shift them around?

React or Plan?

Sort of like what is first the chicken or the egg or in this case is do we wait for jobs or can we plan for them? And if we can plan for them, can we create a strategy to prepare for them right down to our middle schools and high schools?

Our traditional schools are in trouble. Is there a way for a new look on education that perhaps creates a closer tie-in with post-secondary education and jobs? For example, we appear to want bio-tech jobs, back office, health and tourism. There are excellent initiatives already with BOCES, shadow programs between local businesses and kids, etc.

Development & Schools

However, we create community development plans every other year it seems in our communities. We identify needs and target industries. If we have a good plan, we talk about the things we need to attract these kinds of companies like shovel-ready sites and tax breaks. I do believe we try to make some connection to our colleges but generally in terms of adult training programs.

What about our kids though?

Have we had enough conversations that if we want to go after bio-tech, back-office or wellness, how we can incorporate that into our curriculum's starting at the middle school and perhaps even the grade schools? What ideas do our teachers have because isn’t the goal to create jobs to keep our kids here?

All Opportunities

I was at the local coffee watering hole the other day, hearing several business owners lament about how many kids today are lacking basic skills. They were not talking about computer skills, but etiquette, dress, being on time, self-directed and viewing a job with the same fervor as their next text.

In many school systems in Europe for example at 14, you are asked to pick a career related discipline that can range from those jobs that require higher education to trades. It is not just for service businesses but all potential paths.

A Mentality?

We have plenty of extra-curricular school activities starting at a young age: sports, music, theater etc. Is it possible to consider actual programs or activities related to jobs? Experiences where kids can “test out” (every pun intended!) or experience different work environments?

Our Adirondack economy is all about small businesses, what about youth entrepreneurial programs that talk about balancing a check book, selling and developing a product from start to finish from idea to costs and profit? There are many models out their already including the Kaufman Foundation youth entrepreneurial programs.

Youth and Jobs

Now tie this in to the community plan for jobs and target these extra-curricular programs toward health care, tourism, bio-tech, etc.

To be effective though, do these need to be more than one day events but actual curriculum or extra-curricular activities where just like sports for example, this is a key part of their day?

Competitive Kids

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. Basic work skills are however. To succeed in sports or music we want our kids to start early in life. We believe if they want to be competitive later on, they need to start young.

If we want them to be “competitive” in the workforce, don’t we need them to start early as well?

Start at Home

Perhaps, I am to blame for some of this myself. I think of how I grew up versus how I am raising my own kids. Perhaps, I got too wrapped up in “wanting my kids to have a better life or more opportunity than me.”

As a kid, helping out was not something you could opt out with my small business parents, it was part of life. But there was a philosophy to it. My father used to say “Don’t give anyone else a job you wouldn’t do yourself.” He was a big believer in starting from the ground-up at a young age. You wouldn’t know how to teach cleaning if you didn’t do it yourself.

I feel bad for my kids to do the dishes or take out the trash and way too often find myself doing it. I sometimes forget that some of the best times we had as a family was cooking dinner together or working on a household project. I think of the things I learned doing those family “chores” and the sense of pride I had in accomplishing them.

Survival Skills

We can’t always afford to bring in the service people we need to fix something in our businesses. I appreciate now learning a few skills, having to deal with customers at a young age. It was a part of my “education.”

Perhaps the conclusion will be from the educators reading this post, “We are doing enough already.” If that is the case, perhaps we as parents should also not forget that a job and life skills starts at home.

Circle of Life

I often wonder if the real reason we as parents are so involved with creating jobs is not so much for us but for our kids.

Its funny how as a young parent, you want your kids to leave home and explore. As you get older though, that theory isn’t so grand.

I hear too many stories but how our kids have to live so far away from us to have a career. I hear the emptiness in their voice – and the fear and loneliness as old age stealthy creeps up.

Perhaps there is more we can do as community to give our kids at an early age a real choice to come back home. Right now to many of them it feels more like a compromise of “under-employment” and eventual sadness for us.

Sometimes it is a tough line between being a parent and your kid’s friend. Perhaps we all need to think about our kids acquiring life skills as part of their daily “curriculum” for their future - and maybe even ours.


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