The Educational System
Just why is it that when you need customer support concerning a computer glitch, you are invariably hooked up with a person on the telephone or in front of a terminal across a vast ocean? In many instances, it's simply a matter of education. Simply put, it's where the competent software engineers are. It's where the most adept troubleshooters call home. In other words, it's where the people with answers to your questions are. Sure, the wages paid are often much lower in those faraway parts of the world than they are here, but that's a completely different kettle of fish — one of corporate conscience.
The unpleasant reality is that the American educational system, as well as many others in the western world, is coming up a yard or two short. Today's primary, secondary, and even higher education leaves a lot to be desired. Schools from the basement to the penthouse are not cutting the mustard in turning out the necessary brainpower to keep pace with technological gains and all that these gains dictate. Schools are not arming students with even the most elementary communication and analytical skills.
Why Less Isn't Better
One sometimes wonders how school kids of the past did it. They not only learned reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also came away from grade school with an ear for Latin and the ability to locate Sri Lanka on a classroom globe. For sure, the ways and means of education have been gradually changing over the decades, and most members of the baby boom generation were not compelled to learn all of the things that previous generations of school kids were taught — you know, in those one-room schoolhouses without electricity. But, by and large, baby boom children were an educated bunch and held to higher standards than succeeding generations.
The educational divide is most conspicuous in the aforementioned areas of communication and analytical skills. Indeed, once the baby boom slowed to a trickle, a gradual dumbing down of educational standards took root. Ironically, many within the fraternity of baby boomers are the architects of this “less is better” approach to learning that exists in all too many educational settings today. These instructive shortcomings are most evident in the increasingly shallow talent and skills pool on the labor market.
Is It Really That Bad?
There are many talented and highly educated people of all ages in all kinds of jobs — just not enough of a supply to meet the demand. The point here is not to paint with a broad brush, or to tar any particular generation or generations, but to tread in reality. There is a genuine demographic predicament gathering over today's job market like a dark cloud about to rain down on it. Indeed, one generation's retirement portends fundamental problems for the future of business organizations as well as government bureaucracies. This truth cannot be glossed over in the hopes that it will evaporate into the ether.
In many business fields and assorted occupations, critical skills shortages are already a fait accompli. So, the big question is what can coaching and mentoring as a managerial art do to make these shortages shorter, as it were? What can coaching and mentoring do to fill existing skills gaps with the requisite know-how?
Coaching and mentoring can nobly perform a service by teaching tomorrow's leaders the skills to carry on with what works and what grows companies. Coaching and mentoring can light the way to organizational progress by handing off the baton of wisdom. In theory — and hopefully in practice, too — coaching and mentoring endeavor to maintain and build upon essential business lessons learned, rather than allowing it all to retire to Florida and the shuffleboard courts.