RETRAINING AMERICAN WORKERS
January 23, 1998
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer Transcript
Downsized American workers are training for new jobs in different fields at schools such as Cincinnati State, a community college. Hedrick Smith looks at how the American economy is changing in the second part of Surviving the Bottom Line, a PBS documentary.
HEDRICK SMITH: The Arnoff Center for the Arts in downtown Cincinnati is filled to the rafters on this Sunday afternoon with the proud families who stood by mothers, sons, husbands, and wives through two intense years of study. They have reason to celebrate. Of the 700 graduates receiving their Associate Degrees this year from Cincinnati State 98 percent will get solid jobs. This includes many whose old jobs simply vanished in the economic tornado that swept America in the 80's and 90's, people like Deb Stiles.
DEB STILES: They were downsizing. At that time there was a lot corporate takeovers. And so every time a person would leave, or they'd downsize a job, then they'd say, but we're making your job stronger, and the company will get stronger because of that. So what really happened, though, was eventually they just sold us. It wasn't a corporate takeover; they just sold us out. And then we all lost our jobs.
HEDRICK SMITH: Penny Deaton was stuck in a job that paid her only a hundred dollars a week.
PENNY DEATON: I used to be a hairdresser. I worked in a salon. I didn't have any medical benefits. I didn't have any vacation time. I didn't have any sick time. When I did hair, I got paid. When I didn't do hair, I didn't get paid. And it was a very--it was a struggle.
HEDRICK SMITH: Michael Wheatley's job of 17 years was wiped out when his employer went bankrupt.
MICHAEL WHEATLEY: There was a moment...I found myself home alone, sitting on my floor, sobbing. And I didn't have a clue as far as what I was going to do in the future. My self esteem was gone. No confidence. And at that moment, I really thought that my life was over.
HEDRICK SMITH: In America today, reconnecting with the economy means rebuilding a life.
TELEPHONE OPERATOR: Cincinnati State. May I direct your call?
HEDRICK SMITH: For millions of Americans across the country, those first steps up from despair are taken at community colleges. The key to Cincinnati State's success is blending classroom assignments with entry level co-op jobs in local businesses. Students alternate 10 weeks in class with 10 weeks on the job. During two years at Cincinnati State, Michael Wheatley got one full year of work experience in accounting
MICHAEL WHEATLEY: When you sit in the classroom and they talk about how to prepare a financial statement, those things are fine. You need to learn those in a classroom setting. But until you walk into the work force, and you see how those things are put into practice, I don't think you fully grasp what you're learning in the classroom.
HEDRICK SMITH: The co-op program helped Deb Stiles get over the psychological hurdle of shifting careers.
DEB STILES: Fettuccini's up!
DEB STILES: Changing in your mind what you are is really tough. It's not like one day you can just go in and say, okay, I'm now a cook, so you should hire me. It's very scary, because in your mind you're thinking, but I'm really an office worker; I'm just pretending to be a cook. But with the co-op program they--they force you to get a job. You have to face it. And you have to go out and perform. And that's the only way you're going--you're going to learn this, is to go out and do it.
HEDRICK SMITH: The co-op program is a partnership that simply could not function without 600 local businesses absorbing more than 2,000 Cincinnati State co-op students every year--businesses like GE--ready to help a Penny Deaton jump from cutting hair to testing jet engine components.
HEDRICK SMITH: Tell me--what was your first reaction when you saw Penny Deaton walk through the door?
BOB HILLERY: Well, I--I did wonder a little bit, I must admit, as to whether this young lady was--was really looking for a technician job in a--in a sort of hands on, dirty fingernails environment or whether she'd--she really should be staying where she was--I think in--in--sort of in the hair dressing world. However, I was obviously wrong in that first impression. She came through and on her first assignment, which happened to be in my area, she--she worked extremely well and got her fingernails more than dirty, I'm sure cracked. It's a pretty high technology exposure for someone who's, in effect, still going to school.
HEDRICK SMITH: Penny Deaton was also juggling a home, a husband, and two small children.
PENNY DEATON: I wanted to be 100 percent mom, 100 percent student, 100 percent wife, 100 percent professional person. And that's not possible.
HEDRICK SMITH: Martha Brosz, Penny's departmental advisor, helped Penny get her bearings.
PENNY DEATON: From the get-go she has been my biggest support person, to get me going in this direction. She has laid out my classes. She has told me what to do, what not to do.
MARTHA BROSZ: She was so enthused about her class work and so willing to persevere and didn't want to give up that, you know, when you have a student like that, you want to share everything you can. You don't want to lose them, and you're willing to do anything you can to -- to hang on to them.
PENNY DEATON: I got pregnant during my first Organic Chemistry class, and Martha was my teacher. I was ready to deliver, and I was going to deliver into the first week of the term and Martha told me that she would call me on the phone at the hospital and--and lecture me on the phone to keep me up with what the class was doing, so I didn't have to worry about giving up my class. I mean, that was really someone going out of their way because they cared about me graduating and getting the degree and the career.
MARTHA BROSZ: She went out to GE, they absolutely loved her. She finally realized that, yeah, I guess I'm pretty good; I can do this. It just kind of changed her. She became a professional. And from there on, I think she's just blossomed.
PENNY DEATON: Is the luna scale still intact around the specimen?
TECHNICIAN: Yes, it seems to be.
PENNY DEATON: The spall with the coating?
PENNY DEATON: Everything that I did at school prepared me for what I'm doing here. And the great part about it is you're able to take what you learned at work, go back to school and say, okay, how do I want to gear my education now; what would I like to learn before I go back to work the next time that will help me?
BUSINESSMAN: From industry's standpoint--
HEDRICK SMITH: Co-op is not just students entering the workplace, but businesses entering the schoolhouse.
RAY DIPILLA: We're going to need your help as employers, as folks from business and industry to work with us.
HEDRICK SMITH: It's Cincinnati State inviting local industry to scores of advisory meetings, to spell out just what kind of workers they need. In response to advice from businesses, the college drops obsolete courses and creates new ones. Its students get the knowledge they need, and business gets a steady flow of workers geared for tomorrow's marketplace. The academic conveyor belt to industry may trouble some people, but Mark Walton, chair of Cincinnati State's board of trustees, makes no apologies.
MARK WALTON: We make sure that we're providing the kinds of programs that will insure that our students get jobs. It's just that simple.
HEDRICK SMITH: Would you move on a new program without checking with the business community?
MARK WALTON: Absolutely not. If we're putting a program together that they don't need, it just doesn't make sense for us. So we don't do it.
DEB STILES: We're going to have the raisins. Are we using raisins?
HEDRICK SMITH: This inside entree to expanding career fields is what attracts job-oriented students like Deb Stiles.
JOHN KINSELLA: Six oranges should do it.
HEDRICK SMITH: But Deb Stiles had to survive master chef John Kinsella.
DEB STILES: Ordering mushroom, shrimp.
JOHN KINSELLA: I called a mushroom. We have to respond here. You understand that?
HEDRICK SMITH: Like a drill sergeant, Kinsella puts his students through real-life work pressures as they prepare restaurant meals for paying customers.
JOHN KINSELLA: I demand excellence. Even. Let's try and keep it even.
FEMALE STUDENT: I'm trying.
JOHN KINSELLA: I demand from my students a hundred percent for all the time they're with me. Just let the knife rock on the board, you see. See my fingers? There goes a finger.
HEDRICK SMITH: What about Chef Kinsella, did he intimidate you?
DEB STILES: Yes, especially when he's having a bad day, and then he starts just yelling and you don't even have to screw up, you just have to be there in the wrong place and then he's yelling.
JOHN KINSELLA: One student said to me one time--came back and he said, chef, I hated your guts when you were here, but thank you. And I--and that meant a lot to me. That means a lot more to me than anything else.
HEDRICK SMITH: Is this a growth industry?
JOHN KINSELLA: We estimate there will be 48,000 chef jobs available that won't be filled every year for the next fifteen to twenty years--good trained technicians, good first cooks, sous chefs, terrific demand, a terrific demand. And the industry is willing to pay good dollars now to highly skilled people.
HEDRICK SMITH: These students are not just going to get a degree in cooking?
JOHN KINSELLA: No. They're going to get a degree in applied business.
HEDRICK SMITH: Applied business?
JOHN KINSELLA: Yes, with a major in chef technology. That means they have the management skills to run a business. And that's--
HEDRICK SMITH: Accounting?
JOHN KINSELLA: Yes, accounting.
HEDRICK SMITH: Math?
JOHN KINSELLA: Economics.
HEDRICK SMITH: Management? What else?
JOHN KINSELLA: Economics, business classes, cost controls, financial analysis--because 80 percent of the restaurants that fail today are because the chefs and the managers don't have good formal business training.
HEDRICK SMITH: Were you a little bit blown away by all the requirements for math and accounting and management?
DEB STILES: No, that's why I wanted to come here, because this is transferable. There are cooking schools that you just go and stay there for a year, but you end up with a certificate. And that's all you have is a certificate. I wanted--if I wanted to do it, I wanted a degree that was transferable just in case I wanted to continue on.
MARTHA BROSZ: What do we statistically call the average?
HEDRICK SMITH: This combination--strong academics and on-the-job experience--is what produces Cincinnati's stunning 98 percent job placement record.