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Preparing Kids for the World of Work?

I rarely trust what those who have not worked in the for-profit world have to say about the day-to-day in the for-profit workplace.

Why does Montgomery County Public Schools believe it is preparing kids for the world of work?

More and more, I have noticed educators in public school districts, including a lot of MCPS people, making some pretty weird claims about the world of work.

Over the course of my own professional career, I’m glad I got to work in both worlds—public education—I worked for MCPS nearly 20 years—and the business—since 1998, I have worked for two different D.C.-area research companies. Frankly, I’m now at a place where I rarely trust what those who have not worked in the private for-profit world have to say about the day-to-day in the private for-profit workplace. I just don’t think they have credibility.

So, here is an interesting paragraph from Washington Post writer Michael Chandler—it appeared in a recent blog about MCPS Superintendent Joshua P. Starr and his most recent book club pick "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" by Daniel Pink. Chandler writes: "Extrinsic motivators, such as financial incentives, helped speed up assembly lines during the industrial age. But they don’t work as well to encourage the creative thinking or sound judgment needed in the more complex jobs that characterize today’s economy."  

Click here to read Chandler’s entire post.

The above is pretty easy to say or believe if you don't actually work in the private for-profit world. But if you work in a for-profit situation you know that money always matters, including financial incentives. Could any of us imagine, for example, selling this “B.S.” about how financial incentives don’t matter to Facebook workers? On the eve of Facebook going public, their workers are getting ready to “get paid,” and probably already have their luxury car brochures printed out. Sure some of these workers do what they do not just for the money. But come on people, “getting paid” is pretty rewarding!

My current Montgomery County company is no Facebook, but workers at my company know that they can earn additional bonus money if they work harder, and many do work harder because they are motivated by the extra cash.

I would say that in past two years I have been involved directly in hiring at least five new college graduates. Now, I have to admit that during these interviews where interviewees went to high school never came up.  What comes up in interviews is what occurred in college—college courses that are relevant to my company’s mission, research projects, research jobs or internships, and writing samples (college graduates who can string good sentences together are worth their weight in gold).

Which brings me back to my original question: Why does MCPS believe it is preparing its graduates for the world of work? And even if it does believe this—and believes it like it was some kind commandment from God—how could it ever prove that what it did during the high school years makes a difference?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Susan Byrne February 16, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Ideally, students will be enabled and assisted to identify their aptitudes as well as their interests. Those interviewees presumably took the particular college courses and participated in the research projects that matched their interests and for which they had or could develop key aptitudes. Beyond differentiation to deliver the compulsory basic curriculum, MCPS should train teachers to deliver a more student-led and democratic learning opportunity at secondary levels. Today's youth can access their interests by means of many media options. The schools must tap into that and provide the added value and rigor of critical thinking, problem solving, mentoring, and coaching to challenge growth.
Lisa Kphotoalbums April 15, 2012 at 09:36 PM
The ideas probably come from one of my employers who explained to us that we are there by His Grace, no not Gods, but the Owners. We were there to make money for His Company; come in at His hours, whenever He said, work weekends, nights, overtime, and if we ever thought about having a life outside of work forget about it! We were His! This was NOT an At Work State...so leave now if we didn't want to work at what He determined was Necessary. No money doesn't matter, unless you are mangement. In the economy at hand, did we have a Choice? No. Did we have a choice at how we were treated? No. We complain we are disciplined. And discipline is uneven at best. A manager caught stealing or forging a minor employees signature on a form for discipline was suspended. You know the kind of forms...you do one more thing wrong and you are fired...employee was off that day so she signed it. He never knew it until weeks later. Oops. Employees see others with multiple infractions ignored while others with just one let go without warning. Complain too much when the managers 'forget' about breaks and lunches. Students should be taught: work hard, get high in organization fast, save all you make, because you are nothing to those above. Those I started with are long gone…I was one of the last few of my hiring class…top of my seniority list…no UI, union failed to file in time for grievance and he knew better, but is friends with HR. Shrug.
Lisa Kphotoalbums April 15, 2012 at 09:37 PM
PS. my fault for expecting best from people, won't do that again.
Joules April 23, 2012 at 02:43 PM
I've worked in 7 different situations and in each of these jobs there were pros and cons. The money is vital, of course, but I valued these jobs for more than the paychecks. There was mental stimulation, camaraderie, and the reward of accomplishing things that initially seemed too challenging. There are situations in which you might choose to do without the money, such as when my husband realized that his new job was with a bad-tempered company owner who kept a gun in his desk and sexually harassed one of the female employees openly. (I saw this man pinch the woman's bottom as she walked past him at the company Christmas party.) We were both from decent families, fresh out of college, and were stunned at what was going on. After a few months we decided the money wasn't worth the mental/emotional pressure generated in that company and we could move in with family for a while if my small paycheck wasn't going to stretch far enough. My husband offered to testify as a witness if the lady wanted to bring charges against the boss but she refused. After satisfying his conscience with regard to the lady's situation, my husband quit the job. We've never regretted it.
Joules April 23, 2012 at 02:46 PM
P.S. I forgot to mention that my husband's story illustrates that preparing kids to be adaptable, resourceful and to make moral choices is essential at home and in school.
Lisa Kphotoalbums April 23, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Also, may add preparing kids to be honorable and, whether they stay or start looking for another job, document the harassment...be it their own or their coworkers in case it goes to court or labor commission. I have a friend who has assisted several people in filing National Labor Review Board and Unemployment Insurance Cases due to management misbehavior. Helped them understand their rights and the paperwork they needed to work out, write up. Also, he took very good notes at work which helped their cases. It isn't easy but Doing What Is Right trumps everything....
Robert Marr May 31, 2012 at 04:08 AM
I've had the "opportunity " to hire college grads on many occasions during my working life. To say I wasn't completely impressed with "product quality" would be an understatement. My biggest complaint was not so much the technical capabilities of the interviewee as it was with their pathetic ability to communicate. It appeared many of the kids had a very poor understanding of 3rd-grade items such a sentence structure and the ability to get a point across. The ability to communicate, if only in English, is paramount to success. Also, it was no surprise that the most well-rounded kids came from environments that demanded work/study programs as at Kettering.
shakerchamber July 31, 2012 at 06:46 PM
How about this idea? What if we were to strive to teach young people that college & early jobs are pass throughs. In today's environment, it makes more sense to take a job and learn what you can on the way to starting your own business. Use your abilities, gifts and talents and become the next Bill Gates! These kids are brilliant but they're taught early on to 'get a job' because that was the way it USED to be. There are not many careers out there where you can retire but there's lots of untapped talent that can be channeled into greatness. Be brave, have goals, be stragetic and go for it!
Christina August 03, 2012 at 03:11 PM
I agree with you teach the kids. Unfortunatly we need to look at untapped resources and start programs that will give kids access to all things possible for them to strive for. A kid entering High School has an interest in Computers but Technology is so vast that they need to have an idea what it is they like about Computers to focus their education path.
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Z-Carpentry.com November 01, 2012 at 07:19 PM
I may be way off topic to the responses prompted by Joseph Hawkin's Blog, But this is what I felt when I read the title "Preparing Kids for the World of Work." My resume and back round suggest that I was eager to enter the work force at a very young age. I graduated from as a GED02 Graduate which means I worked a full time job while going to High School. This eagerness stemmed from a necessity to provide for myself and gain independence. I have recently been thinking that someone should propose a change in curriculum taught throughout High School. We need curriculum that will prepare the youth to enter into a chosen field of expertise at a younger age and stimulate common sense world views on Money management such as banking and investments and even entrepreneurship. Too many of my friends are unprepared for the world in front of them even after years of college they still seem "sheltered". They still have no passion for a chosen trade and lack the skills needed to apply for even the most common jobs on craigslist. Can someone please elaborate on this idea for me? At 18 yrs old, many of us will need to enter into the work force and will have no training for mediocre jobs that will allow us to further our education and pursue passions that will better our economy. I have such a strong desire to further my education and obtain credentials, however when I look into going to college I see time being wasted and think time is better spent independently studying hands on
Avrage Guy November 06, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Robert. I would have to agree with you. We have hired many college students and graduates, where we were amazed at how little attention was given the grammar structure, spelling, etc. I can't tell you how many times they would misspell my name or the name of our company. They were rejected immediately. I do not blame the education system though, as much as I blame the students and their parents. Success in the classroom has to do with how the students are prepared at home.
Avrage Guy November 06, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Attending college is about so many different things. Beyond the various areas of study, attending college helps to develop a foundation of solid study habits, meeting deadlines, collaboration, investigative work, retention, analytics, etc. All of which are needed in the work place. You limit yourself by not attending college.
Jane Garcia January 23, 2013 at 07:34 AM
As a college student, I used to do many part-time jobs to enrich my experience of the world of work. But remember not let it interfere with your study.
Ivie Sherman February 11, 2013 at 01:17 AM
As a high school teacher of "Career Awareness," I believe it is essential to teach students communication skills and provide them with experience to work collaboratively in groups since this reflects the "real world" of work. In addition, I believe that they should be exposed to and taught to use technology so that they can create projects that teach others. Finally, teaching writing skills and allowing students to apply these skills in a variety of different business genres (ie business letters, reports, etc) is crucial to work world preparation. If you would like to read more of my blogs, please visit my "news" section at http://www.beachcitiestutoring.com.
Rose Walker, Simple Gifts Galleries May 27, 2013 at 02:25 PM
Mr. Hawkins, you hire college grads. You pick from the cream of the crop. They are way past High School classes to prepare for work. They also have access to funds that many don't. Most workers in most businesses aren't college grads. Who is going to teach them?
Collins Francis January 22, 2014 at 10:46 PM
School doesn’t teach corporate skills and as a result graduates are lost in the corporate world. University must aligned their courses with the changing job demands and focus on those perquisite skills like interpersonal skills, problem solving and team work. These flight by night Universities, are run by corporate minded people pulling in big bucks, and they are falling our nation’s students. All sectors must come to together including universities, managers and job seekers to find immediate solutions and stop failing our nation’s students. More companies must offer internships programs for recent graduates to help get them hands on experience without exploiting their labor.

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