Archive for Thursday, May 12, 2005

Study: Workers need attitude check

School district task force seeks training solutions

May 12, 2005


Douglas County employers say they don't need much help training workers how to make products, build homes or operate high-tech machinery.

They'd just like someone to show potential employees how to show up for work -- on time, with a good attitude and the capacity to solve problems.

"Employers are saying that proper attitude toward work and work habits, along with goal-setting and personal motivation, are key skill areas (needed) now and in the immediate future," said Genna Hurd, a researcher for Kansas University's Policy Research Institute. "Basically, they are satisfied with the technical skills or general aptitude of the work force, but would like to see improvement in the soft-skill areas."

Such conclusions were included in a new report from the institute, compiled for the Lawrence school district's Administrative Task Force on Technical Education.

The task force is working on assessing the real and perceived needs of Lawrence-area employers when it comes to work force training. The group wants to know what can be done, through vocational training or other programs, to help employers.

Group members received the study Wednesday and intend to digest its findings in the coming months.

Hurd and other researchers surveyed 199 firms spanning fields that would benefit from technical training, such as manufacturing, construction, information/managerial, transportation, warehousing and other operations with a technical focus. Researchers also conducted personal interviews; most of the companies surveyed had five to 20 employees.

The overwhelming conclusion: The biggest gap in technical training involves what potential employees don't know about the most basic of skills -- how to look for a job, put together a resume or even show up for work on time.

"No matter how one looks at the results -- by education level, by establishments or by employment -- proper attitude toward work and work habits and goal-setting and personal motivation remain the ... skills areas that need most improvement," Hurd wrote in the study.

Recommendations from researchers who analyzed technical training needs in Douglas County:¢ Launch a feasibility study, to assess costs and benefits of establishing a countywide technical training center serving students and adults.¢ Identify a coordinator in the county to serve as a "clearinghouse" for employers seeking training assistance in the county or nearby Topeka or Johnson County.¢ Boost "soft skills" and career counseling efforts in technical programs and high school curriculum.¢ Improve coordination of training efforts among employers and public schools.

Dwayne Peaslee, training coordinator for the local union of plumbers and pipefitters, said he had been trying for 17 years to introduce his technical education into Lawrence public schools.

And he's confident that students could use the option: Apprentices start with wages of $26 to $29 an hour.

"We'd love to get in the schools," Peaslee said.

The study's findings came as a surprise to Bruce Passman, the Lawrence school district's executive director for student services. He said he'd figured there would be "resounding interest" among area employers for establishing a technical training center in the county.

Such overwhelming interest may not have materialized, but the concept still remains in play.

"This would be kind of a dream, but at least it should be on the radar screen," said Chuck Krider, the study's lead investigator.

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