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The Contractors Are Coming

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas

I’ve made it a point, over the last year or so, to ask each ICC recruit and new student touring Fab Lab ICC if they’d like to own their own business someday. I’ve not compiled the results using any kind of scientific method, but my best guess is that 40% say yes, they’d like to have their own business. (One or two outliers already have a business when they come to us out of high school.) 5% say no and 55% haven’t thought about it. That’s not surprising given twelve years of schooling telling them to plan on getting a job working for someone else.

I first wrote this column back in 2016 and, after the pandemic, the perception that “people don’t want to work” has just gotten worse. Our culture continues to be to imply to young people, from kindergarten through 12th grade and on into college, that you’re supposed to go to school and learn something so you can get a job working for someone else. We rarely mention that someone must create the businesses that are going to provide all these jobs and that they could be one of the business creators.

From a 2016 News Story

Recently I saw a Tulsa news story about an upcoming shortage of construction workers.  Companies there have all kinds of construction jobs to be filled and not enough job applicants to fill them.  There was an interview with a teacher at one of the local technical colleges. He said something to the effect of “Young people today don’t want to work hard and they don’t want to work with their hands.  All they want to do is work with computers and play video games.”  Nothing could be further from the truth and had I one of the bricks shown in the news story; I would have thrown it at the TV.

We see, every day at Fab Lab ICC, that young people DO want to make things with their hands and they will work hard if they are doing something they find fulfilling. 

Here’s the disconnect. The construction companies want to keep doing business as they have in the past so they tell the technical schools “Turn out more construction workers, we need them.”  The schools then develop programs to churn out construction workers, but the young people don’t enroll.

What Makes Young People Work Hard?

The problem is not that young people don’t want to work hard.  BTW, there have been plenty of people in every generation who have not wanted to work hard.  The reason, for all generations is this; people want fulfilling work.  At the end of the day they want to feel like they’ve accomplished something good.  In the past, people were willing to accept jobs they hated.  Today’s youth are putting up their hands and saying “Whoa, I’m not buying this obsolete economic model where I am expected to go to work for others and keep working at a job I hate because I have too much debt for a house that’s too big and too many new cars.”  (OK, they don’t really say it like that but that’s what they mean.)

Let’s Mention the Possibility

Instead of urging young students to enter the aforementioned teacher’s program to “learn to be a carpenter so you can go work for someone else your whole life” we should be teaching them how to be entrepreneurial in the way they choose to solve problems for others.  Once presented the choice, some will become employees, and many will become independent business owners.  Many will even enter the carpentry programs of the world to learn how to make things.  No one works harder than an entrepreneur working to control his/her own destiny.

Those construction companies in Tulsa with all the open “jobs” will end up hiring independent contractors to get the work done.  We should be teaching students that they should strive to solve the problems of others as their life’s work whether working for others or having their own businesses.  Our education system should be showing them how to choose their best path.

Jim Correll can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.eduor Twitter @jimcorrellks. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Fab Lab ICC or Independence Community College. Archive columns and podcasts at www.fablabicc.org.


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