IS OUR CASTE SYSTEM THE PROBLEM?
North Americans often pride themselves in their version of democracy.
"Everybody's equal" is the political cry. That simply isn't true.
Our own caste system may be the cause of our decline in the new world
order. Consider how we view people by job classification. The factory
sweeper is "common labor" and gets paid minimum wage or close to it.
Guys and gals on the factory floor are "blue-collar workers",
"paid-by-the-hour". Office workers are "white or pink-collar" and
receive a fixed salary. Engineers and computer programmers are
classified as "nerds". Without any of the above the operation would
quickly come to a halt, yet that vision doesn't seem to penetrate
management. They see that work force as flexible, meaning the quantity
of that work force can be increased or decreased as demand requires.
Much like increasing or decreasing the plant's electrical power
requirements. This effect on attitude is disastrous.
In many ivory towers North America it is more lucrative, and
long-lasting to move into management, finance or marketing. And,
increasingly the best minds have been travelling in that direction. It
wasn't always thus: During America's best times -- the period between
1950s and 1960s veterans from World War II, in many instances, chose
engineering. A victorious nation rewarded them by ploughing vast sums
into educational opportunities that created the training level that gave
the cream of the survivors opportunities never before available. What
they produced in innovative products and systems not just on earth with
unmatched highway systems, but also in the air and space beyond, was
directly attributable to that investment in the new education of the
day. It provided the intellectual thrust that propelled the
mechanical/industrial age into their new-term future.
Anywhere in North America today there are more lawyers, confronting,
delaying, obstructing, litigating and destroying what that earlier group
built up than there are engineers trying to jump start today's
after-burner. When there are more lawyers than engineers in any sizeable
political district you can expect more trouble than triumph. And, that's
what we are reaping from what we have created.
When a lawyer can pull in annual salary of $200,000, that role-model
image can't help but affect young high school students considering.
Imagine those power lunches, classy office space, pretty secretaries,
corporate Mercedes, partnership bonuses, unlimited expense accounts, and
what up-to-now has appeared to be a more socially acceptable pedestal.
An environment ruled by the "precedent of the past", that resists new
intellectual thinking and where the heaviest physical thing ever lifted
is the phone or an American Express card. How does that look compared to
using your brain to penetrate the unknown, create the new and actually
getting your hands dirty? And working in merely adequate operational
quarters and being paid the "industry standard". North America is now
paying, and paying dearly, for this economic caste system. Management
raised in such a system forces engineers and designers to listen more to
marketing forces than creative ones, more to bottom line results for the
next quarter than to long-term success and survival of their company.
With proper social incentives and availability of training, that floor
sweeper can come up with another $7 billion idea equal to the one Apple
founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak developed with just a garage and
Are any North American companies seeing the world through this type of
visionary eyes? A few. I wrote a year ago about the Weyerhaeuser
Corporation plant in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan that have introduced
"the fifth shift" system. One week out of five, a shift of the entire
production labor force attends in-house classes to update training, not
just for their present job or the next one they may be promoted to, but
also the one after that. Wait until their competition feels the results
of that investment. It is done in-house because no scholastic
institution has the latest equipment to train such workers for the new
fields this company is moving into.
Another is EDS (Electronic Data Systems) soon to be ensconced in third
millennium-style headquarters in Plano, Texas. They are already spending
$100 million a year in training and retraining. Do you really think they
are going to have any substantial competition with what that trained
workforce will be able to accomplish? Already they can balance 5.4
BILLION checking accounts in one second. And they can handle the
communications section of any business -- anywhere in the world -- from
Plano, Texas. Think that isn't going to downsize some industries? By
Try to stick around. Another new game has just begun.
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