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Archive for May, 2013

Once upon a time, there was a course of study that addressed cooking, nutrition, food preservation, hygiene, along with other relevant topics to managing a household. It was called home economics, and it appears to have fallen out of favor in our fast-paced, modern world.

Here’s the paradox: while healthy eating has never been more popular than it is now, there is a concomitant obesity epidemic in America. What’s up with that?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese.
  • Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.
  • In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
  • By state, obesity prevalence ranged from 20.7% in Colorado to 34.9% in Mississippi in 2011. No state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. 39 states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states had a prevalence of 30% or more: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.

Of all countries, America has the highest rate of obesity.  Yet we are bombarded with messages about organic foods and the value of fresh, unprocessed food. Where’s the breakdown?

Our  love for hamburgers, fries, soft drinks, and sweets, among many other foods that are considered bad for us, is partially to blame. Plus, we are all in such a rush that we do not take time to prepare healthy meals and sit down together to enjoy them.

But wait, that presupposes that we know enough about good food and its proper preparation to make a difference. I believe that we have lost much of that knowledge and ability and/or are too busy to deal with it.

Therefore, home economics should be required for both boys and girls. Men have every bit of responsibility to learn how to select and prepare healthy foods as do women.

We all must eat. We all must manage households, too. Why not require young men and women to learn some basics of home economics? It could only help students prepare for life and perhaps a much healthier life, too.

There is no gender stereotyping in my suggestion that young people should be required to take home economics. Quite the contrary. Men need this knowledge every bit as much as women. All Americans would benefit from home economics study.

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There is a sad fact in the world of American employment. Organizations interested in investing in the U.S. are finding too few potential workers with the requisite skills.

About 600,000 jobs last year went unfilled in the U.S. due to a lack of skilled labor (Stuart E. Eizenstat & Robert I. Lerman). The skills needed are often that of machinists, welders, robotics programmers, and mechanics who can maintain equipment.

What is the reason for this? I have some ideas. I teach public relations/communication management at Towson University. Far too many of my students want to be event planners, not even PR/communication professionals, much less mechanics or machinists. I believe that impressionable young people have been brainwashed to view working with their hands as beneath their dignity. This is complete BS.

I believe that some people are better suited to working with their hands. And the truth is, we need many more people who can fix things than we need people to plan parties or weddings. Have you tried to hire a “handyman” lately? If so, chances are you were put on a long waiting list. We are rapidly losing our ability to fix and make things, hence the greater need to hire people to do it for us.

There is a real need to prepare people for skilled labor and subsequently, enhanced employment opportunity. Schools used to offer practical, helpful classes like “shop”, courses of instruction in a trade such as carpentry, electricity, or auto mechanics. I believe that such courses should be required for middle and high school students for both boys and girls. No sexism here.

Why require boys and girls to take shop? Because they will learn practical, useful life skills. And many young people will also learn skills that can mean employment opportunity. It just makes good sense for women and men to learn these things.

Employment in manufacturing accounts for 20 percent of jobs in Germany, 16 percent of jobs in Switzerland, but only 10 percent of jobs in the United States (Eizenstat & Lerman). Young men and women who take shop may find that they like the work so much that it constitutes a career option. The statistics prove that employment opportunities abound for such skilled workers.

Shop courses could offer such practical education as basic auto repair and maintenance for young people. An understanding of these concepts can help both men and women to not be ripped off by unscrupulous car repair shops.

Skills that help you learn to repair and build things, like carpentry or basic electricity, would also be useful. And again, career options come with it.

Academic professional/technical college instruction is often augmented by internships. For skilled workers, an expanded system of apprenticeships should be offered to provide hands-on experience. In Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, for example, 55 to 70 percent of all young people enter apprenticeships (Eizenstat & Lerman).

To meet the needs of 21st-century U.S. employment, we owe our young people options for expanded employment opportunity. Becoming a skilled tradesperson is one such option. Working with your hands may just be a viable and interesting option for many.

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Yes, it is.

I could stop there and make this my shortest post ever. But my short answer to this frequently asked question needs some explanation.

I teach public relations/communication management at Towson University. A valid question is, can someone be successful in PR/communication without a college degree?

The answer is, of course, yes. But here’s the rub — you have to be hired first. And why would an employer hire someone for even an entry-level position without a college degree when so many graduates are churned out each year who vie for low-salary entry-level jobs?

Get the picture? You must have credentials to get hired. “Credentials” means “qualifications. You can become qualified over time by on-the-job training, but as I said, you have to get hired first. That’s the hard part.

The first thing any reputable employer looks at is your experience (qualifications) for the open job he/she is trying to fill. The old chicken-and-egg question is, “but how do I get experience if I can’t get hired?” The simple answer is, “go to college and get a degree in the field.” That gives you, at best, the entry fee to seek employment.

Businesses must consider the  return on investment (ROI) on all big decisions. Like any business, a high school grad must consider the ROI in deciding whether or not to earn a college degree.

But in considering college, a student must view the payout in more than just enhanced earnings over the life of a career. Enhanced lifetime earnings for those who have college degrees is well-documented. But intangibles like personal growth and life experiences should factor into the decision, too. College can help you in so many more ways that what happens in the classroom.

Does this mean you can’t obtain personal growth and life experiences without a college degree? Of course not. But the four years you are in college are an intense time of learning and growth that prepares you for your career and your life, too.

To many of us who have hired, trained, and fired employees over the years, a college degree is really just an entry fee for the world of work. Real learning begins on the job. Sadly, many organizations must offer remedial training to raise the level of competence of new hires, often on things they should have mastered in school.

Remember, to be hired for any job, you must demonstrate qualifications. It takes time to gain the qualifications you need, but earning a college degree puts you well ahead.

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What are the most important skills/abilities necessary for success in the Public Relations career you envision as being perfect for you? How will you demonstrate to potential employers that you have those necessary skills/abilities? How will you continually improve your skills/abilities after you graduate?

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