What is Workforce Development and

by francine Hardaway on June 21, 2005

What is Workforce Development and How Soon do we Start?

It�s summer, and ten junior high school-age kids are sitting in a room at the YMCA, while their classmates are perhaps swimming in the pool outside. Although they are mostly boys, there are two girls in one corner of the room. Each kid is here spending the day learning how to put a computer together, and learning the function of each of its parts.

The instructor is Ken Mystrom, Motorola Manager of Technology Partnerships and the Executive Director of a not-for profit called StRUT � Students Recycling Used Computers. He is training both the students and a YMCA employee, who will run the program for the remainder of the sessions during the summer. This is called training the trainer, and it�s a tried-and-true method of transferring knowledge and expanding its impact.

Motorola has been partnering in the community with StRUT for 6 years, (along with Intel, APS, Sechler CPA, IBM, and High Tech Institute.) Programs like these are important to large corporations who regularly upgrade their PCs and consign thousands of still-useful machines to the landfill.

This particular event is called �Minor League Techie Camp.� The program is getting bigger and bigger, especially since the YMCA gets to keep the computers the children rebuild. The partnership started in a single school, and has expanded all over the state. You can see how Ken himself is charged up by all this; he loves seeing how quickly the children learn. It�s hard to believe that Motorola actually pays him to do something he loves � make kids happy.

The kids, who have a Powerpoint presentation about computer components in front of them, have already heard a short talk about the pieces of a computer, and now they are busy assembling power systems and mother boards on the chassis. Ken walks around the room, making sure everybody�s machines are going together correctly, reminding them to double check their work. He�s really teaching them several things at once: teamwork, communication, computer assembly, a bit of engineering, presentation skills, and even�because the Y keeps the computers � the concept of philanthropy.

�The black screws go into the hard drive, a gold ones go in the CD-Rom,� says Ken. The drives are held in place by snap-in trays. It�s complicated, but Ken tells me that by the end of the day, working in teams, everybody will get a machine assembled, some in as little as fifteen minutes.

These machines are licensed to run Windows XP, so the computers aren�t outdated. There�s real value here.

But this is about way more than putting computers together for the YMCA. This is about preparing kids for the future, and not for a future of assembling computers.

Motorola sponsors these programs because the company believes it is preparing not only its own future employees, but everybody�s; Motorola believes this is the responsibility of a company known for a lot more than technology leadership. Despite the reorganizations and downsizings, Motorola�s commitment to its communities remains solid.

Why? Because although it�s a public company and has a responsibility to shareholders, Motorola has always taken the long view of its community relations, and after years of being one of the country�s largest employers, some of its programs are actually embedded into the community in the same way its chips are embedded in cell phones.

The Minor League Techies Camp is only one of them. Motorola also sponsors a program for teacher education, in which the teachers come to businesses to learn how the skill sets they are teaching need to be integrated in a work environment. The teachers are learning that their individual subject areas don�t exist in a vacuum, and that when students reach the work force, they will have to know much more than just math or English: they will have to know how to collaborate, how to value their colleagues, how to share resources, and how to solve problems. That�s what their students are learning in Minor League Techies Camp.

Interestingly, most kids learn these skills in pre-school, only to forget them (or fail to practice them) once they being to concentrate on �subject matter areas� in school. So if we are ever to straighten out our public education system, we will have to think about more than just math, science, and reading. You know that area we used to call �social studies�? Well, maybe we just have to re-name it �workforce development.�

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