other day I reviewed the results of an international survey which
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
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
That’s right! Employers in
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
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.
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."
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
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
"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
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
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.