The Evolution of Workplace Training and Development

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Almost all products are now manufactured overseas because America lacks the technically qualified, educated personnel to make the product in a high-tech, controlled-cost, quality environment. Who will make the next generation of high-tech products: high-definition television (HDTV); hypersonic aircraft; battery-driven cars; smaller, faster, more powerful computers? Will those products be invented in America only to be manufactured in Korea, Singapore, or Germany?

Sixty-six percent of all German employees are certified graduates of their youth training system. About 596,000 (as of 1992) German teenagers between the ages of fifteen and nineteen participate in this program. Overall 1.6 million apprentices (6.5 percent of the labor force) undertake a two-to-three-year job preparation program in any one of some 380 occupations. The cost to German industry in 1991 was about $10,500 per apprentice. Does the system benefit business? One indicator is that businesses offer 22 percent more apprenticeship slots than there are applicants.

One reason for this broad support is that the apprentice system is so well established throughout Germany that companies are not afraid of having workers poached. German unions do not severely limit student apprenticeships to create artificial shortages of skilled workers. Senior German management recognizes that profits and productivity are a direct result of a strategic, long-term investment in lifelong employee education. Five hundred thousand companies (mostly small businesses) invest $40 billion in the German youth apprenticeship program. An additional $40 billion is allocated by these companies to train their current adult workers.



Whether U.S. businesses will respond with similar programs is yet to be seen. Scattered company efforts have already started across the United States. One thing is certain; we must train our trainers on how to successfully collaborate with local educational institutions if our effort is to succeed. If other countries can do this, why not the United States?

The $50-billion-a-year corporate training budget of U.S. companies sounds impressive. But it is only a fraction of America's annual corporate capital hardware bill, which runs about $400 billion each year. Motorola is not a nationwide industrial leader by accident. Employee education is at the heart of both its short-term and long-term planning.

America is pretty much in the same position as it was at the beginning of the nineteenth century. At that time there was a gradual realization by business, union, and government leaders that a fundamental change was required in America's basic business agenda. The United States sensed it could not compete with a rap-idly industrializing Europe unless the average American worker was literate and had vocational skills. Between 1890 and 1920, American society embarked on the difficult task of introducing sweeping educational reforms.

There was tremendous opposition by some in business to mandatory public education. Child labor was cheap; schooling would drive up business costs. However, the new technology of the early twentieth century demanded a realistic partnership between business and labor that enacted into law America's first educational revolution. The time has now dawned for a second effort. The demands of the marketplace have far outpaced the schoolhouse's ability to educate the majority of our children for life beyond 2001.

A widespread national consensus is being mobilized for significant change both in the schoolhouse and in the corporate class-room. Diverse groups across America are demanding basic educational reform for all people, young and old. A second American education revolution may unfold.

No matter what the eventual scenario of the second American education revolution, it will not reach completion overnight. Even drastically improved public education is incapable by itself of supporting America's industrial competitiveness. Of equal importance is quickly establishing a corporate policy that expands the role of employee education within all businesses, both large and small.

It is up to training professionals to help senior managers understand that planning includes investing in employee workforce education through expanded company training and development programs. The realization of these twin strategic objectives- national education reform and local company workforce education programs-will help America regain lost productivity and international competitive advantage in almost every business sector.

As part of a company's strategic business plan, management needs to reconsider training by assessing its total workforce's skills. What are the employees' educational skill levels in relation to domestic and foreign competition? Is this educational skill gap increasing or decreasing versus key competitors? In many instances individual businesses will find that they are far behind in the education and training they will need to offer all their employees for the ultra-modern, post-twentieth-century marketplace.

However, the experience of too many managers is that training is "not worth what I've paid." Employees go and listen and say it was wonderful, and they do it for a while, only eventually to forget it and go back to their old habits. Training is useless unless change occurs and becomes part of a process that awakens people to their own strengths and weaknesses.

In the 1980s many new adult learning strategies were discovered for stimulating thinking and intelligence. Frederick Goodwin, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, believes that educational programs cannot make a 70 IQ person into a 120 IQ person. "But you can change their IQ in different ways, perhaps as much as 20 points up or down, based on their environment." There are many untapped abstract reasoning capabilities that currently are not being developed by traditional business training/educational programs.

We offer the Workforce Education Triad as a potential occupational model for the future of careers in education at work. Companies will continue to offer training in basic management, supervision, service, and assembly behaviors. They will add a component for employee skill requirements that increases overall personal comprehension: writing, math, reading, foreign language, and English as a second language. Only after addressing these two employee development areas will a business be able to successfully address the education issues of building higher thinking skills for TQM, ISO 9000, business process re-engineering, work teams, problem solving, personal creativity, and advanced technical or professional education.

Business will also need to tie in to their workforce development program joint collaboration for career education and school-to-work programs with local educational institutions. This includes elementary, secondary, and post secondary institutions. Only in this way will businesses be able to develop the future high-tech employees they will need for a high-productivity, world-class, competitive workplace.

America now stands at an economic crossroads. One path leads to a continued decline in the standard of living and sees the United States eclipsed as the world's leading economic power. The other road leads toward Future Work-a fundamental restructuring of American business for 2001 and beyond.

The Cold War is over, but an international competitive war has begun. America has proven it can resist invading armies; but will business and political leaders recognize the new economic course charted by the world's industrial community? In the late-twentieth century, international business investment in human capital has emerged as the single most important business strategy to attain and retain a significant competitive economic advantage.

The authors believe that better educating all adults with the Workforce Education Triad is an attainable goal for every business, large or small. Aging may slow people down somewhat, but if adults can control the pace of learning, and if hearing and visual problems are corrected, people have the same ability to learn in their fifties as they had in their twenties. This continues to be true until old age, sometimes even after the age of seventy.

Everywhere the new global marketplace is undermining the nation-state as the fundamental socially integrating force. This new international economy now benefits only 20 percent of American workers. The other 80 percent are economically standing still or falling behind. Well-educated Americans typically work in office buildings. These "glass-tower people" are linked to their counterparts in Germany and Japan. Their economy is upward bound. Unfortunately, too many of their undereducated fellow Americans are not heading in the same direction.

Unless this basic socioeconomic condition is corrected, the United States will become a two-tier economic society. A well-educated, economically mobile upper class will be dwarfed in numbers by a large, poorly educated economic underclass that lacks the educational ability to function in a high-tech, glass-tower business environment. This means the end of the American economic system as we have known it and perhaps a severe disruption of our society as the average standard of living sinks out of sight. This is too high a price to pay for our lack of agreement on a new social agenda for the reform of American education in school and at work.
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