Board: Macro Economics
Going back to the recent thread on U.S. education, I recently had a revelation.
During the thread, there were disparaging remarks about American education, kids getting degrees with the expectation of good paying jobs upon graduation, even if the degree was in some general soft skill like "communications."
My revelation came at the Hilton Americas in Houston where I am currently staying. This is a massive 5-star hotel and I was eating dinner in the restaurant the other night. Ordered a bottle of Pino Noir with a couple clients. The 25 year old waiter brings out the bottle and fills our wine glasses to the absolute top, like he were filling the ice water glasses.
As a comparison, I often stay at the Delta Hotel in Rotterdam. It is a modest 4-star hotel with a small restaurant. One night my waiter was offering me different wines to taste, asking my thoughts. I asked him how he learned so much about wine. He said he finished a degree in hotel management and was taking advanced studies in wine to become a somalier.
Now, I don't know if the kid who didn't know how to pour wine in Houston went to college, but I couldn't help but wonder how a 5-star hotel ended up with a waiter who had no clue how to pour wine.
Then it dawned on me. The American education system produces loads of kids who don't know anything. They have no marketable skills, no knowledge of any industry, and just a bunch of mashed up general education. They are not being driven into professions, and our society has evolved such that positions like waiters and retail work is not considered worthy of the title "profession" so even a 5-star hotel can throw a totally clueless, but well intentioned young man out on the floor or their restaurant to improperly fill wine glasses (while charging $48 for the cheapest bottle on the menu, I might add).
The second part of the revelation was during the dinner conversation with my client who has been a friend for the past 10 years. He was saying the maintenance managers at their largest production plant would not send engineers to this technical conference unless they could tell him specifically what they were going to learn and how much it would save the company.
Sorry, Mr. Manager, that's your job--to make sure your workers receive the training they need.
To put in context how ridiculous this was, the conference is the absolute best technical conference in the world for oil refinery machinery. There is no other technical conference plant machinery engineers need to attend, and attendance, including hotel and airfare would only be about $3000 per engineer (and a large refinery might only have 4 or 5 engineers who need to go). The engineers are in charge of machines that can cost $10 million where a process outage can cost $5 million and a fire can cost $100 million and lost lives.
How could they not receive $3000 of value for attending?
So, combined with my hapless waiter who obviously entered his job with no skills and had obviously received no training from his company, I sat dumbfounded, thinking about massive, complex, dangerous, billion-dollar operations trying to save a few thousand dollars by denying their engineers essential training.