The Woes of Unfocused Training

The Woes of Unfocused Training

This week, we continue with a guest post from Steve Day, in which he discusses with us the woes of unfocused training. Steve received a degree in Electrical Engineering and then served in the US Navy. He started with Komatsu America 1978. For the next twelve years Steve worked through various equipment sales positions before becoming the Vice President of Parts, Vice President of Service. During this period Steve sat on the board of a major distributor in the North east US as well as Hensley Industries. After twenty-five years Steve moved from the OEM side of the business to the Distribution side by joining Tractor and Equipment Company in 2003 as Vice President of Product Support.

Throughout his career Steve has learned the Industry from the ground up. This allowed him to have a very clear view of what was needed to support customers, employees and owners in their pursuit of excellence. Working at high levels in both the Manufacturing and the Distribution side of the business gave Steve some great learning opportunities and chances to develop insights.  Steve retired in January of 2020.  After spending 40 plus years in an industry we are very pleased to be able to share some of Steve’s insights with you and honored to consider Steve a friend.

Unfocused training is a waste of time and a huge waste of money!

This may not be immediately obvious but I believe that a lot of the training we give our people is unfocused.

A manufacturer tells us that they want our people to attend certain classes at the manufacturer training center or they want our trainers to be able to teach the classes.  We then usually use a very scientific method of choosing who should attend.  We call up our branch service managers and ask them who they want to send.

The day that our chosen attendee is to leave, something comes up and the manager sends somebody else.  The thing that usually comes up is that things got busy and the service manager didn’t want to send the original technician because he is too important to the branch.  The person we end up sending doesn’t learn much because they didn’t have the basic knowledge to get the most out of the class.

But, something just “came up.”

We waste money. We damage our reputation with the manufacturer and we don’t do much for the self-esteem of the tech we sent off to fail.  We also disappointed the good tech that we didn’t train. This happens more than you can imagine.

If you want to ruin your day I strongly suggest you do the following:  Go to your Training department or your HR department and ask them to give you the training record of each of your Technicians and any of your Parts people that work with customers or the Service department.

Tell them you would also like to see this year an updated copy of each of those employee’s skills assessment and this year’s training plan for each of those employees.  I only know about five distributors that won’t be disappointed.

I will continue with these reflections next week.

For focused and sound employee development training, please visit our website at

The Critical Importance of Measuring…

The Critical Importance of Measuring…

Today’s guest post, The Critical Importance of Measuring the Customer and Employee Experience, is from Ryan Condon. Ryan is the Co-Founder and CEO of SATISFYD. He has grown from a first-time entrepreneur at 24 years-old, to a business leader with 20+ years of software and service experience. Ryan was an early innovator in Customer Experience (CX) Management and developed a SaaS platform in 2001 to enable clients to gather feedback, resolve customer issues, and drive customer-focused initiatives. The SATISFYD platform provides Customer and Employee experience at every level of an organization and has been used in over 70 countries and 32 different languages. Ryan, his wife Aimee and their family moved from Chicago to Austin in July of 2016 to escape the northern winters and enjoy the outdoors.

Ryan Condon

The Critical Importance of Measuring the Customer and Employee Experience

We are at an interesting and ever-evolving crossroads as it relates to customer and employee experience. Although most believed we were already experiencing a gradual sea change where the importance of physical location on work options was diminishing over time, COVID has forced a more rapid transition to work-from-home/work anywhere opportunities for workers. This sudden change has been challenging for many as they try to adjust to this ‘New Normal.’ Opinions vary from those who think we will never return to working full time in physical locations to those who expect everyone will rush back into a collective space as soon as it is deemed safe.

Regardless of what side of this fence you sit on, we can all agree that things will never be the same. What this exactly means for the future is uncertain, making it critically important that we constantly keep our pulse on the ever-changing sentiment of our prospects, customers, employees, and candidates for employment. While existing employees will most likely stay at their current jobs short-term, they are being presented with new opportunities that do not require a physical presence and may be perceived as less risky to an in-person job. Candidates that you interview are actively listening and evaluating the different approaches organizations are taking to manage through COVID. How these approaches align with candidates’ beliefs and desires will have an important impact on their employment decisions. How is your organization being perceived?

This is a dynamic time

It requires flexibility, forward-thinking, and a willingness to challenge the norms that have made your business successful up until now. Good leaders will attempt to solve these challenges for stakeholders by drawing on years of experience and having a conversation with direct reports. Great leaders will also be sure to collect information from all stakeholders (prospects, customers, employees, and candidates) and constantly make course corrections to their organization as needed. They will also be testing and evaluating the outcome of those changes by continuously listening to feedback from stakeholders.

In these challenging times, it is more important than ever to listen. Those leaders who are able to gather and utilize stakeholder feedback in order to anticipate and adapt to change will have the edge.

We will discuss this more in future blogs.

Please visit our website at for information on our course offerings.


Continuous Improvement and Employee Retention

Continuous Improvement and Employee Retention

Today’s Guest Blogger has a great deal of wisdom to offer us. Here’s a bit more about Don Shilling, in his own words.

Don Shilling


My background is what has helped make me so passionate about continuous improvement and employee retention. I grew up in a construction family and worked for my Dad several summers during and after high school. Then while working on my degree at North Dakota State University I was hired by a construction equipment dealership. I started in their service department part time until I finished college. Then full-time service employment for a couple of years then transitioned into sales management. During the recession of the early 1980’s myself and three other managers started General Equipment & Supplies, Inc.

First as Sales Manager and eventually as President we grew our business from one location and 20 employees to 10 locations in four states and two Canadian Provinces and over 250 employees. Along the way we developed relationships with area Technical Colleges and created a College Tuition Reimbursement Program where today we Recruit a handful of new technicians annually into that program. Our company has also developed two Department of Labor Certified Apprenticeship Programs to fill hard to find skilled positions. I am currently semi-retired as Chairman of the Board.

Training is an important element of continuous improvement and employee retention. But before we can train our employees, we must find them!

I am currently on the Workforce Development Council in our area. Congress mandates that every state have a Workforce Development Council. The Governor appoints Members and the Council should consist of at least 50% business and industry leaders.

As a Council, we first develop the list of “High Demand Jobs” in our region. After that, we advise the Governor on what programs we need to attract people to these jobs. The High Demand Jobs we all know; some vary from state to state but certainly 75% of them are skilled jobs. These careers require two years of college or trade school or less. Many are apprentice learned skill sets. Certainly all of these skilled positions require additional training annually.

What Comes Next?

We, as business leaders, must explore the information and recommendations from our local Workforce Development Council. All of us need to do our homework by engaging in a deep dive into all the programs available in our area to attract people to these High Demand Jobs. We have to support the recruitment, education and continued training of the employees we attract.

Every State has programs that support us as we fill these High Demand Jobs. These programs can include tuition reimbursement, as well as grants for On the Job Training and Job Shadows. There might be incentives for continuous improvement.

It costs money to educate and train our current employees or these future employees but finding monetary relief through available State Sponsored programs can help you to get engaged and ease that burden. The successful businesses of the future will be the ones who utilize these programs. These businesses will aggressively explore options for finding and training people.

More detail in future blogs.

For more information on how we can help you with continuous improvement and employee retention, please visit our website at

Training Is Important!

Training Is Important!

Steve received a degree in Electrical Engineering and then served in the US Navy. He started with Komatsu America 1978. For the next twelve years Steve worked through various equipment sales positions before becoming the Vice President of Parts, Vice President of Service. During this period Steve sat on the board of a major distributor in the North east US as well as Hensley Industries. After twenty-five years Steve moved from the OEM side of the business to the Distribution side by joining Tractor and Equipment Company in 2003 as Vice President of Product Support.

Throughout his career Steve has learned the Industry from the ground up. This allowed him to have a very clear view of what was needed to support customers, employees and owners in their pursuit of excellence. Working at high levels in both the Manufacturing and the Distribution side of the business gave Steve some great learning opportunities and chances to develop insights.  Steve retired in January of 2020.  After spending 40 plus years in an industry we are very pleased to be able to share some of Steve’s insights with you and honored to consider Steve a friend.

Training Is Important!

This week, we continue with Steve’s guest blogging.

Training is important!

This is one of those obvious things.

Our manufacturers tell us that our technicians must attain certain levels of expertise.  In fact, I believe that most manufacturers will eventually base warranty compensation on the level of proven training expertise the performing mechanic has received.

Our customers will not pay for on the job training.  We often have to cut hours of billable labor off of a job that took too long.  We all have customers that will request a specific technician that they consider competent.

Poorly trained technicians tend to over or under order the parts that they will need and create inventory issues.  They also create expensive redo.

Poorly trained parts counter employees frustrate customers and miss sales opportunities.

Good employees expect ongoing training to help them improve their skills.  They consider this a perquisite of the job.  Good employees are very receptive to training and are great judges of whether training is worthwhile or worthless.  We all want good employees.

We will be continuing with Steve’s series here next Friday, as he continues to reflect on a career well-spent.

To explore the options available for training your employees, please visit

How Do We Measure Success?

How Do We Measure Success?

Today we are pleased to introduce to you a valued colleague. Ed Wallace. Ed will share his insights with us from time to time. You will see in his bio that he is an author. I would strongly advise those of you who read and gain new perspectives from books that Ed provides clear and easy to read advice which you can translate into your work and your personal life.

Ed Wallace, President, AchieveNEXT Human Capital.

Ed consults with and speaks for corporations and associations across the globe with a client list that is a Who’s Who of Fortune 500 companies. He is the author of Fares to Friends, Creating Relational Capital, Business Relationships That Last, and his most recent the #1 best seller, The Relationship Engine.  In addition, Ed is currently on the Executive Education faculty of Drexel’s LeBow College of Business and Villanova University’s Human Resources Master’s program.

How Do We Measure Success?

Hint: It comes through the experiences we create for others

While many leaders prioritize new products and services and hard assets that can be plugged into spreadsheets, research reveals that core business relationships are the true catalyst for driving high performance. At the same time business relationships are unpredictable and hard to measure. They’re rarely captured on organization charts or strategic plans. Most leaders, in fact, leave business relationships to chance, and simply hope that cross-generational conflicts, organizational complexity, diversity, and other organizational barriers will just go away because, ‘we’re hiring great people.’

We see today’s leaders winning by investing in ‘Relational Capital’ with their colleagues, teams, and across their enterprises. Relational Capital is defined as the ‘distinctive value created by people in a business relationship.’ It forms where the qualities of credibility, integrity and authenticity converge when working with each other. So how do ‘relational leaders’ hit the relational mark?

My experience through many years of research into business relationships and training over 30,000 business professionals has revealed five identifiable principles that lead to effective relationship development and, not surprisingly, superior performance. These principles don’t exist only in the business world but are at the heart of most successful people’s lives. Through my experiences and research, I know they can be learned, practiced and improved, bringing a surprising level of precision to relationships in organization.

The Five Principles of the Relational Leader

  1. Display Worthy Intent
  2. Care About People’s Goals, Passions, and Struggles (GPS)
  3. Make Every Interaction Matter
  4. Value People Before Processes
  5. Connect Performance to a Purpose

(Wallace, The Relationship Engine, Harper 2016)

These principles form a system of beliefs for high performers that Relational Leaders follow and apply intentionally. The result is what I call ‘relational agility’ that can bridge the generational and cultural gaps that exist in today’s organizations and harness the collective talents, thoughts, and efforts of people. As Ron Slee, who heads up Learning Without Scars, suggests, ‘the biggest differences that I see are that millennials are impatient. Today a lot of older management view that as a negative quality. I view that as a positive. If these younger employees are not learning and growing their potential, as employees, they do not want to stay around. I really admire that quality. They have a need, if not a thirst to learn. They want to continuously improve. They want up-skilling.’

Understanding this element of the Relational GPS of younger employees will allow for management to understand ways to support and foster the development of younger team members.

We will visit again soon.

Thoughts from an Industry Leader

Thoughts from an Industry Leader.

Today’s post is a from a guest blogger, Steve Day. Each Friday, you will see a new post here from our guest blogger. He will be offering his thoughts and ideas for four weeks. We are thrilled to have his reflections here.

Experience is invaluable. The Thoughts of a Respected Leader in the Industry.

Four years ago, I decided that I would officially retire on January 1, 2020.  I immediately began my planning for a successful transition to my successor.  That went quite well.  My successor is definitely an upgrade and that is how it should be.  I also started planning for a fun and exciting first year of retirement in 2020 which would include quite a bit of travel.  As the Yiddish saying goes, “Man plans, God laughs”.

My good friend, Ron Slee, has become worried that my brain will turn to mush in the time of Covid-19. Unless, of course, I keep active, and so he has asked me to write an article for his blog.  It’s really for my own good. Hopefully my experience will be invaluable to you.

I thought that I might write about something important that I did not focus on enough until way too late in my career.  Training is at, or near, the top of my list of things I knew were important but did not focus on early enough.  Some of the things I am going to talk about in the coming weeks are probably obvious and some of them require effort and assets that we are often unwilling to allocate.  I think training is a particularly appropriate topic right now because it might be getting ignored a bit now during the time of Covid-19 budgeting.

This brief post serves to introduce you all to Steve Day. Please look for his wisdom every Friday.

For more information about training, please visit our website at

A Guest Blog from Ed Gordon

“Ignoring America’s Talent Desert Won’t Solve the Problem!”


Reports of talent shortages continue to proliferate:

  • The National Association of Manufacturers reported an all-time record high of over 500,000 vacant positions (September 2019).
  • A National Association of Home Builders Survey found that over half of contractors had shortages in 12 of the 16 categories of construction work.
  • An October 2019 member survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) reported that 53 percent of small business owners had great difficulty finding qualified workers (88 percent of those hiring), This year finding qualified workers has consistently been the top business problem in the monthly NFIB survey.

William Dunkelberg, NFIB Chief Economist warned, “If the widely discussed showdown occurs, a significant contributor will be the unavailability of labor — hard to call that a ‘recession’ when job openings still exceeds job searchers.” This quote is based on official Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports: the 5.9 million Americans classified as unemployed (11/1/19) and the 7 million job openings reported in the Jobs Openings and Labor Turnover Survey issued on November 5. The BLS also reported that the number of U.S. vacant jobs has exceeded the number of unemployed for the past 17 months (August 2019).


The official BLS estimate of unemployment (3.6% in the 11/1/19 report) is based on an extremely narrow definition: only those who actively sought a jobs in the past month are classified as being unemployed. We believe that this measure of unemployment is very misleading. The BLS also currently estimates that about 95.2 million Americans over the age of 16 are “not in the workforce.” This is an remarkably high number that has persisted since the 2008 recession.


Our analysis of the probably characteristics of this group of 95.2 million Americans is:

  • Approximately 55 million people over age 55 have retired.
  • What about the other 40+ million people not in the workforce? The latest official BLS survey of this group finds that nearly 4.4 million respond that they want a job. About 1.2 million report that family responsibilities, schooling, medical issues, or transportation or childcare difficulties are keeping them out of the workforce. The significant growth of the populist vote in this nation indicates that a large number of people who lost their jobs in the wake of the 2008 recession have been unable to find full-time employment due to such factors as skill deficits, age discrimination, or inability to move to areas with relevant job opportunities. A variety of sociological data provide evidence that a sizable proportion of unemployed Americans are poorly educated and have few of the job skills businesses now demand. But we estimate that as many as 27 million Americans who are willing to work are educationally qualified but lack some skills needed for currently available jobs.


Including the 5.9 million Americans who the BLS officially reports as unemployed, these 27 million Americans could potentially help fill the 10.5 million jobs we currently estimate are vacant across the United States provided that they receive training from employers to update their skills. Based on these figures, the actual unemployment rate is over 16 percent!


A September Rand Research Report warned that the education-to-employment pipeline has changed little from previous decades despite technological advances, globalization, and demographic shifts. This has resulted in major shortfalls of workers due to: (a) inadequate general elementary and high school education, (b) limited enrollment in and completion of  post-secondary education programs, and (c) lack of access to lifelong learning and training supported by employers. We believe that a staged transformation into a suitable 21st-century education system should occur at the regional level involving the leadership of major community sectors. These programs are already underway in many communities. We have coined the term Regional Talent Innovation Network (RETAIN) for such undertakings. They, however, have not gained enough traction to have an impact on the overall unemployment situation.


In 1970 the United States had the world’s best educated and trained workforce. Today America is a spreading talent desert with too many poorly educated workers who do not have the knowledge and skills to fill the new jobs of the 4th Industrial Revolution.


We are now on an unsustainable labor economic course. A Deloitte and Manufacturing Institute 2018 Skills Gap study projected that 2.4 million manufacturing jobs would not be filled between 2018 and 2028 due to skills shortages with a potential loss of $2.5 trillion in economic output over that time period. We believe that other sectors of the U.S. economy will also experience significant economic losses because of the encroaching talent desert.


The time as arrived for regional public-private collaboration rather than empty political and business rhetoric. It is better to rebuild quality workforces at local levels rather than passively accepting continued skills declines and government programs that are ineffective or underfunded due to political divisiveness at the federal and state levels.


Edward E. Gordon is president and founder of Imperial Consulting Corporation

It’s All About the People

It’s All About the People

Recently I came across this in Material Handling Wholesaler. It is well worth reading and talks to elements of the management job that we feel are critical for successful businesses.

7 Steps to Turn Employee Potential into Performance

Imagine on Monday, you discover that your meticulous, rule-following accountant and creative, eccentric marketing person have switched positions. How’s this likely to work out? In truth, some variation of this misalignment is common in most organizations.

The Waybeloe Potential Corporation was operating at the break-even point for the past five years. The CEO, Harvey Waybeloe was frustrated. Another CEO told him about an employee-alignment process that was delivering amazing results for other companies. Out of desperation he decided to try it. Within two years, profits increased from break-even to $3.2 mm! The fix? Putting the right people in the right seats!

Most business leaders say that 80% of the work is done by only 20% of the workforce. This 20% are the top performers. They usually produce 3-4 times more than the others. The main reason is due to job alignment rather than attitude or drive. Here’s evidence: It’s common for top performers to be moved or promoted and then become poor performers. Likewise, many poor performers become top performers when moved to appropriate roles. Bottom line: everyone can be a top or poor performer depending on how well the work aligns with their innate characteristics.

How do you deliberately create an organization where people’s work is aligned with their innate characteristics (abilities)? Here’s an overview of a proven process that was used above.

1. Shift your mindset from focusing on skills, experience, and education to innate characteristics first

It’s common for people who are “great on paper” to get hired and become poor performers. In that same vein, many top performers started off lacking in the “required” skills experience and education. When people’s work aligns with their innate characteristics, they can utilize their natural abilities and unleash their passion for their work. Also, the best training and management will not turn poorly aligned employees into top performers.

2. Select the right assessment tool

Many organizations use personality assessments in the hope of gaining more objective information about people to set them up for success. However, the results are usually disappointing due to four inherent pitfalls:
• What you think of as personality is mostly surface-level, observable behaviors; not what’s underneath, driving these behaviors. The drivers of behavior are more accurate, predictive, and stable.
• Assessment-takers usually provide different answers based on which of the following they consider: how they actually see themselves, how they believe others see them, and how they want to see themselves.
• Assessment-takers use a specific context or situation to answer the questions. For example, answers to questions related to “extroversion” (sociability and talkativeness) may vary depending on context differences: small vs. large groups, familiar vs. unfamiliar people, level of interest in the topic of conversation, etc.
• If an assessment is used for a job application, the applicant often has an opinion on what traits the employer is looking for and skews the answers accordingly.
• What’s a better option? Select an assessment that delves beneath the personality into what is more core or innate with people. This eliminates the biases of personality assessments and provides more valid and reliable data.

3. Establish trust with the employees

Inform the employees about the company’s commitment to align their work with their natural gifts. Don’t hide things or surprise people. People want to do work they’re good at and enjoy.

4. Develop an understanding of the innate characteristics being measured

Before you can align people’s innate characteristics with their work, it’s essential to understand what these characteristics mean. In other words, how each one impacts the way people think and behave. Now you have the basis to identify which characteristics are needed for different types of positions within your organization

5. Develop clarity on the job duty break-down

It’s important to know what people will do on a day to day basis in each job. The hiring team (direct manager and others with a major stake in position success) meets to gain clarity on the percentage of time spent performing each job responsibility. Group together duties that are very similar in nature (family of duties). Estimate the percentage of time spent working on each job duty family.

6. Determine which innate characteristics are critical and where they need to measure

The hiring team determines which innate characteristic is critical for each job duty family. They also agree on the desired range for each characteristic. For example, on a 1-10 scale the range for creative thinking should be between 7-9. Now you can develop an optimal range for each critical characteristic.

7. Administer assessment & align employees with job functions

Assess both current employees and potential new hires and compare to the desired ranges. Take the appropriate action based on how strong the level of alignment is. Top performers almost always fit into desired ranges for each critical innate characteristic. If this is not the case, you need to adjust your desired ranges based on the data. Here’s more information on aligning employees:

• When current employees don’t align with their jobs evaluate other positions within the company that do align well.
• Openly discuss available options with employees who are misaligned. Develop a plan to shift roles or tweak job descriptions when this is feasible. Frequently, there are other employees who’d be thrilled to trade positions or some duties that better match with their own innate characteristics.
• For applicants applying to open positions, only interview the people who align well with the desired innate characteristics. When you interview people who don’t align, you may be tempted to discount the assessment results. This rarely ends well.

In the end, the most important job of management is to maximize the ROI of its workforce. Peter Drucker said “The task of a manager is to make people’s strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant. The most important thing you can ever do as a leader is to put people in a position to excel rather than get by or fail. How are you doing in your most important task?

About the Author:

Brad Wolff specializes in workforce and personal optimization. He’s a speaker and author of, People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage. As the managing partner for Atlanta-based PeopleMax, Brad specializes in helping companies maximize the potential and results of their people to make more money with less stress. His passion is empowering people to create the business success they desire, in a deep and lasting way. For more information on Brad Wolff, please visit:


The time is now.

Ed Gordon on Apprenticeships

Each month, I receive a report from Edward E. Gordon at Imperial Consulting Corporation.  These reports are timely and well worth the read for those of us in the realm of business education.  Lifelong learning is a key to every aspect of success.  In this month’s report, which I have included below, Edward focuses upon the apprenticeship model of teaching and training.

I hope this sparks your interest.


KNOWLEDGE SHOCK Series Part 3: Apprenticeships & Other Gateways to Good Jobs
Apprenticeship through the Ages
In the 1920s my father, Earl G. Gordon, attended Bowen High School on Chicago’s south side. He was a great athlete and a member of the school’s football team that won the Illinois state championship in 1929. His dream to study at Michigan State University to become a coach was crushed by the Great Depression.
Apprenticeship in a carpenter’s union, however, provided his lifeline in those difficult economic times. In 1937 after passing his final test by designing and building a spiral staircase, he became a union carpenter. Fifty years later he received his union’s Gold Card. Until he retired at age 80 from a profession he loved, my father spent a lifetime building homes and doing custom remodeling.
Today in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s troubled west side, poverty is rife, and many students entering high school test as low as the 4th-grade-level in reading and math. Alex was a typical student. He didn’t attend class very often. When he did go, he spent most of his time selling drugs or making trouble. Alex didn’t see any point in attending class because, “They weren’t teaching anything I needed to know and I needed to know how to make some money.” A teacher convinced him to take a few classes at the newly opened Austin Polytechnical Academy. “Man I really took to working with the machines,” Alex recalled. He earned industry certifications that prepared him to work as a skilled machinist. After graduation, Alex was hired by a local manufacturer. He not only is considered a model employee, but he also is pursuing further training to upgrade his skills. When asked what his family thinks of him now, he speaks with pride, “I have two cars, I’m taking care of my daughter, and I make around $70,000.” He choked up when he said, “My mom is real proud.” (Philanthropy Journal News, January 3, 2017)
The Current Status of Apprenticeship & Allied Initiatives
As these two accounts show, apprenticeship and high school career academies can be keys to satisfying and gainful employment. Today about 500,000 individuals are enrolled in U.S. apprenticeship programs, about half sponsored by unions and half by businesses. But this number is not nearly enough as there are growing shortages of skilled workers in many business sectors.
Across the nation over 200,000 construction jobs are unfilled. “Contractors would hire more workers if enough qualified applicants were available,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America. Their recent survey of 1,600 members showed that 70 percent are having difficulty filling hourly craft jobs.
Regional initiatives to increase apprenticeship numbers are gaining momentum. They include an outreach program that provides high school students in southwestern Pennsylvania with information on apprenticeship opportunities. The Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania that represents 16 building trade unions and 6 contractor associations forecasts that to keep up with demand the region’s training centers will need to double or triple the number of apprentices entering their program. The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters has participated in a television series, now in its fourth season, titled “Built to Last” that is designed to showcase “the positive impact a skilled union labor force has on people’s day-to-day lives.” In a recent full-page Chicago Tribune advertisement, the council both promoted this series and also encouraged readers to learn about its apprenticeship program.
Manufacturing is another business sector reporting difficulty in finding qualified applicants. A July 2017 Society for Human Resource Management survey reported that 43.3 percent of respondents in the manufacturing sector reported increased recruiting difficulty. Only 20 percent of U.S. apprenticeships registered with the U.S. Department of Labor are in the manufacturing sector (Wall Street Journal, 6/17/2017) . The Manufacturing Institute forecasts that within ten years U.S. manufacturers will face a shortfall of 2 million qualified workers. In the Greater Chicago Metropolitan area there are over 30,000 vacant jobs in high-end manufacturing. There are another 19,000 vacancies in the rest of Illinois.
One notable initiative in the Chicago Area to address the skills-jobs gap is Manufacturing Renaissance, a non-profit organization, that was recruited by Arne Duncan, then the Superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools, to offer a pre-engineering program for high-end manufacturing careers in a Chicago public high school. The result was Austin Polytechnical Academy of which Alex earlier profiled in this report was a graduate. It has now evolved into the Manufacturing Connect program at Austin College and Career Academy. Since 2007 the Manufacturing Connect program has had over 100 manufacturers as partners. In the last 7 years, its accomplishments include: 420 work experiences including job shadows, paid internships, and summer jobs in manufacturing; 421 nationally recognized industry credentials earned by 215 students; 73 graduates earning between $20,000 and $70,000 per year plus benefits in full-time manufacturing jobs; and initiating the only current Chicago Public School dual-credit manufacturing technology class in which students earn college credits as well as industry credentials. The pre-engineering program begun at Austin College and Career Academy is being expanded to two additional Chicago public high schools, Prosser Career Academy and Bowen High School.
Manufacturing Renaissance is an excellent example of a Regional Talent Innovation Network (RETAIN) that is cooperating in a variety of programs to increase advanced manufacturing skills. It raised the private funding needed to establish the WaterSaver Faucet Manufacturing Technology Center, the only accredited machining training facility on Chicago’s west side and in Chicago Public Schools. Manufacturing Renaissance began an adult manufacturing training program that has assisted adult trainees to secure jobs or earn promotion at their current employment. This program is now being operated by the Jane Addams Resource Corporation. It is the model used by the SAFER Foundation in their very successful training program for formerly incarcerated individuals. In addition, Manufacturing Renaissance has recently been awarded funding from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to expand youth pre-apprenticeship educational opportunities.
Manufacturing Renaissance is expanding its reach in Cook County and showing the way for other RETAINs to begin similar efforts. It illustrates that for a RETAIN to be successful there must be strong cooperation among educational entities, the business community, unions, government agencies, and non-profit partners.
Focus on Vacant Jobs
The August unemployment rate reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was 4.4 percent. However the average duration of unemployment was 24.4 weeks, which is higher than any level since 1982.
Wage levels are still not rising in most occupational areas. One factor is that 20 percent of new jobs during the past year were in the restaurant sector, one of the lowest paying fields. The Department of Labor’s August JOLTS survey reported that job openings increased 8 percent to 6.2 million, the highest on record since 2000.  Finding workers with the requisite education and skills levels remains a big problem for an increasing number of businesses of all sizes. Many now rate finding and retaining skilled workers as their most important challenge. The August Federal Reserve Beige Book reports that a shortage of workers is stifling employment growth in many industries.  The Minneapolis, Atlanta, and St. Louis Federal Reserve Districts reported that firms have turned away business due to a lack of skilled workers. The Dallas and San Francisco Districts saw wages rising because of labor shortages.
Yet over 39 million prime-age workers (aged 16 to 55) have given up looking for work. Although their labor force participation rate has improved somewhat, at 62.9 percent it remains far below the participation level of the 1990s. If these American were added to the unemployment calculation, the unemployment rate would be a more accurate 18.5 percent.
Until more U.S. businesses increase their job training programs to help fill job vacancies, the skills-jobs gap will continue to retard economic growth across most of America. From 1995 to 2016, the proportion of U.S. businesses providing training fell from 35 percent to only 20 percent. Unless U.S. business get more skin in the game including support for cross-sector education and training programs, we can expect job vacancies to continue their dramatic rise. Without significant initiatives to upgrade training and education-to-employment systems, it is possible that 14 million jobs may be unfilled in the United States by 2022 driven both by massive baby-boomer retirements and the continued mismatch of worker skills and job requirements.

Friday Filosophy – A Special from D.K.

A list of sayings to enjoy from a very talented friend and colleague.


A Farmer’s Advice


  1. Always drink upstream from the herd.
  2. Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.
  3. Always keep skunks, bankers and lawyers at a distance.
  4. Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
  5. A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.
  6. Words that soak into your ears are whispered…not yelled.
  7. Meanness don’t just happen overnight.
  8. Forgive your enemies. It messes up their heads.
  9. Never corner something that you suspect could be meaner than you.
  10. It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.
  11. You cannot unsay a cruel word.
  12. Every path has a few puddles.
  13. When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
  14. The best sermons are lived, not preached.
  15. Most of the stuff people worry about ain’t never gonna happen anyway.
  16. Never judge folks by their relatives.
  17. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  18. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.
  19. Don’t interfere with something that isn’t bothering you.
  20. Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
  21. If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.
  22. Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.
  23. The biggest troublemaker you will ever have to deal with watches you from the mirror every morning.
  24. Good decisions come from experience, and a lot of experience comes from bad judgment.
  25. Letting the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier than putting’ it back in.
  26. If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.
  27. Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.