Editorials by Robert Kirwan

 If We Don’t Act Soon We May Not Have To Worry About A Shortage Of Skilled Trades Workers 
   The other day I reviewed the results of an international survey which concluded that Canada has one of the most serious shortages of skilled labour in the industrial world. That didn’t surprise me much. We’ve been hearing for years that our schools must begin to produce more skilled graduates in the trades.

   What did surprise me, however, is the survey found that employers in Canada are not just having trouble finding employees in the skilled trades field. In fact, the positions they are having the most difficulty filling are for sales representatives.

   That’s right! Employers in Canada have indicated that they simply cannot find enough sales representatives for their companies.  That is their number one concern, and after you read the following story, you will see why. As you read, imagine that it is about a company in Canada and that the ‘stomach’ is the sales representative of that company.

   One day a man had a dream in which his hands, feet, mouth and brain all began to rebel against his stomach.
   "You good-for-nothing sluggard!" the hands said. "We work all day long, sawing and hammering and lifting and carrying. By evening we're covered with blisters and scratches, our joints ache, and we're covered with dirt. Meanwhile you just sit there, hogging all the food."

   "We agree!" cried the feet. "Think how sore we get, walking back and forth all day long. And you just stuff yourself full, you greedy pig, so that you're that much heavier to carry about."
   "That's right!" whined the mouth. "Where do you think all that food you love comes form? I'm the one who has to chew it all up, and as soon as I'm finished you suck it all down for yourself. Do you call that fair?"

   "And what about me?" called the brain. "Do you think it's easy being up here, having to think about where your next meal is going to come from? And yet I get nothing at all for my pains."

   And one by one the parts of the body joined the complaint against the stomach, which didn't say anything at all.
"I have an idea," the brain finally announced. "Let's all rebel against the lazy belly, and stop working for it." "Superb idea!" all the other members and organs agreed. "We'll teach you how important we are, you pig. Then maybe you'll do a little work of your own."
    So they all stopped working. The hands refused to do lifting and carrying. The feet refused to walk. The mouth promised not to chew or swallow a single bite. And the brain swore it wouldn't come up with any more bright ideas.

   At first the stomach growled a bit, as it always did when it was hungry. But after a while it was quiet.

   Then, to the dreaming man's surprise, he found he could not walk. He could not grasp anything in his hand. He could not even open his mouth. And he suddenly began to feel rather ill.
   The dream seemed to go on for several days. As each day passed, the man felt worse and worse. "This rebellion had better not last much longer," he thought to himself, "or I'll starve."

   Meanwhile, the hands and feet and mouth and brain just lay there, getting weaker and weaker. At first they roused themselves just enough to taunt the stomach every once in a while, but before long they didn't even have the energy for that.

   Finally the man heard a faint voice coming from the direction of his feet. "It could be that we were wrong," they were saying.  "We suppose the stomach might have been working in his own way all along."

   "I was just thinking the same thing," murmured the brain. "It's true that he's been getting all the food. But it seems he's been sending most of it right back to us."

   "We might as well admit our error," the mouth said. "The stomach has just as much work to do as the hands and feet and brain and teeth."

   "Then let's get back to work," they cried together. And at that the man woke up.

   To his relief, he discovered his feet could walk again. His hands could grasp, his mouth could chew, and his brain could now think clearly. He began to feel much better.
"Well, there's a lesson for me," he thought as he filled his stomach at breakfast. "Either we all work together, or nothing works at all."

   The report is indeed a revelation and should be a wake-up call for our business and educational leaders. We can spend a lot of money and time encouraging young people to get training in skilled trades, to stay in school to get post-secondary degrees and diplomas, to become professional teachers, doctors, nurses, etc.  However, all will be for nothing unless we address the severe shortage of skilled sales representatives in this country. Without a good sales team, a company will suffer the same fate as the man in the story.

   So what do we have to do to fill this shortage of skilled sales representatives? For starters, we have to allow young students in elementary and secondary schools to find out that it is all right to take chances with new ideas and to take risks. We have to give them experience in ‘selling new ideas’ to their peers and adult leaders. We have to help them improve their ‘oral communication skills’ instead of having them spend so much time on paper work and playing games on computers. We have to let them see that rejection is not to be taken personally and that for every idea that is turned down or for every ‘no’ you receive, you are simply that much closer to a ‘yes’. We have to give them opportunity to ‘work on their own independently’ instead of always being part of a ‘team’ where they can ‘hide’. This list can go on and on…

   The most important thing we must do is elevate the status of sales representative in our society. By improving the public image of sales representative, young people may one day feel that this is a career itself and not just a stepping stone to a management position.

   Or we can just continue to do things the way we’ve always done them and when company after company closes its doors, it will solve our shortages of skilled trades people.


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Valley East Today is published by
Infocom Canada Business Consultants Inc.