We Have to Ask the Right Questions

I’m frustrated.  It’s a tough time in our country.  Priorities are all over the place. 

I was recently reading an article in HR Magazine (Spring 2019) about the skills gap (yes, I’m a little behind.)  While I agree with the basic premise, I feel we have to go further, go deeper.  There’s a lot of focus on dealing with the current skills gap in the workforce, but I also want to see proactive efforts to stop this from continuing into the future.  How do we do that?  We have to ask the right questions.

HR, we know how important it is to ask the right questions.  It can make or break just about any situation we encounter on a daily basis.  I always say – ask questions first. 

I’m a firm believer that our education and labor systems in this country have got to work together.  In the HR world, we often talk about the lifecycle of employees in the workplace.  Well, I think it’s time we talk about the educational foundation our employees start with in the first place.  Are we properly educating students to prepare them for the world of work?  Evidence suggests the answer is no.  So how do we fix this?

I really believe the reason we have a significant skills gap now is because we haven’t asked the right questions – of the students.  Outside of the traditional ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ question, are we asking students:

  • What do you really like to do?
  • If you could do/be anything, what would that be?
  • What’s your passion?
  • What’s your purpose?
  • Do you know what your career options may be?
  • What are you good at?

I don’t know that we’re asking the right questions.  I asked my 13-year old daughter and her friends if they were having these discussions in middle school and they said no.  I honestly can’t remember having them when I was in school.  Obviously more in-depth discussions about the future came later…but I don’t ever remember anyone asking me what my passion was.  Or my possible purpose. 

And we’re all responsible – teachers, counselors, administrators, parents, business owners, community members.  I want to see all students have the same access to high quality education and opportunities – regardless of race, gender, neighborhood, socioeconomic status, etc.  If we truly believe the children are our future, we have to be willing to make an investment in all of them. 

So what if we polled students/young adults aged 15-25 to find out what they think/want/need?  Then we repeat it every 5 years and see what’s changed.  And we build curriculum and programs from that data.  That information, combined with the studies done of business owners and HR professionals, should give us a nice framework for what is needed in education to meet the demands of the world of work.  Vice versa – let’s provide a more realistic picture of work for students to better prepare them for what is next. 

There’s a lot to be done but there’s also so much opportunity.  I was excited to learn at the SHRM 2019 Conference that efforts are currently underway to bring the Departments of Education and Labor together for these purposes.  And there is much we can do as citizens at the state level.  My husband’s career has been in higher education, so we’ve been having conversations about education and labor coming together in our household for the greater good.  We are looking into ways to get involved in the great state of Ohio. 

What can you do?  How can you get involved? 

Let’s ask the right questions. 

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