Jackson businessman and jazz patron Charles Hooker posted the following under Donna Ladd's editor's note last issue, "About Those Pesky Soft Skills" (jfp.ms/softskills) in which she discussed how too many Mississippians are not taught "soft skills" such as planning, time management, teamwork, positive attitudes, communication and work ethic before entering the workplace. Hooker responded:
These thoughts were also expressed recently in a meeting of New Horizon Church and St. Andrew's Cathedral through Working Together Jackson. WTJ hopes to create a Workforce Development Center to pair ambitious individuals seeking better jobs with progressive employers seeking better employees. The purpose would be to match persons who are anxious to improve their lives with organizations that are looking for the best personnel they can find ... people and companies, both admirably trying to improve their station and potential!
The intent is to promote and coordinate community college programs and other training/educational resources with the unemployed and under-employed, helping individuals learn of available programs and gaining maximum benefit from them. The Center would also shepherd, nurture and mentor the "soft skills" you mention that weren't stressed in some individuals' backgrounds. As you suggested, those who are born into more fortunate circumstances often take these things for granted. Those unfamiliar with these skills and attitudes, however, frequently deem them unimportant and unnecessary. The Center would also offer employers access to prospective staff members who've taken important steps to improve their worth. The convergence of these efforts is something most other placement agencies typically cannot or do not provide.
Our state often promotes itself as offering "good, affordable labor." Sometimes "affordable" is a euphemism for "cheap." Cheap labor not only provides a harsh, undignified, not-so-enjoyable lifestyle to those who can do no better, it also limits the prosperity of the greater community. How much better it'd be to promote Mississippi's labor as "well trained, excellent, eager to prove its worth"!
A "living wage" can be defined as an income on which someone can support himself/herself and his/her family with adequate food, shelter, and clothing; can save something for the future; and can contribute back to the community--all without government assistance. When the lowest on the economic ladder are capable of this, the greatest benefit to our common life is that all of us can live with dignity as we were meant to live.