Not So Much a “Skills Gap” as a Motivation Gap
Count this on the list of problems that will likely never be solved unless we change our approach to solving them:
On Monday morning, about 70 people — educators, government bureaucrats, elected officials and business representatives — gathered at the Community College of Rhode Island to discuss a problem that is only expected to worsen unless deep changes are made to the national system of education.
In the keynote speech at the Rhode Island Pathways to Prosperity Summit, Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education Brenda Dann-Messier said that the technological revolution over the last generation has transformed the employment environment.
“Gone are the days of the well-paying job requiring low levels of education,” she said.
Although the article doesn’t go into too much detail on the matter, one can infer the general character of the solutions that such a gathering would pursue. They’ll seek to pour additional money into secondary and post secondary education, taking money out of the economy in order to make it as easy as possible for young adults to stumble into the jobs that they want to fill. But the underlying problem is much deeper, as one can begin to see in this quotation:
State leaders have long known of a skills gap in Rhode Island and have been working to find solutions, said Ray Di Pasquale, CCRI president and state commissioner of higher education. But, he acknowledged, the state needs to do more to cater to student needs to keep them in school.
Why should we devote resources begging people to act in their own self interest? They ought to want to pursue a path that leads them to high-paying jobs. If the route to a comfortable life is to stay in school, all that ought to be needed is for young Americans to be made to understand that — and to understand that hard work, dedication, and sacrifice on their own part is going to be required.
If we’re getting a contrary message from younger generations, then clearly, we’re allowing them to develop a faulty sense of life. Perhaps it’s the emphasis on self esteem. Perhaps it’s the rhetoric of entitlement that characterizes our public discourse. Or perhaps the eagerness of adults to make kids’ path to adulthood seem easy conveys the impression that the world owes them something.
Whatever the case, what’s needed are clear, direct incentives tied sharply to candidates’ successes. The difficulty may prove to be that only adults will respond to such stimuli. The solution, that is, may be to let kids taste adult life and figure out that they’re actually going to have to earn their employment.