At Your Service: Jan. 20, 2010

What a week! On Monday, we were looking back in wonder to the “Miracle on the Hudson,” when one year ago Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed his disabled plane in the middle of the river, saving the lives of all on board. The very next day, one of the most devastating earthquakes of memorable history struck the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, causing deaths counted in six figure numbers and displacing over a million people. On one hand we have the powerful example of the difference one person can make, on the other we have a growing need for help of every kind.
The response to the need in Haiti has been remarkable: more money has been donated by individuals than for any other emergency cause ever (thanks in part to the over $21 million received via the dollars-by-texting phenomenon). Emergency teams from around the world have been deployed to Port-au-Prince, including thousands of American military and medical personnel. The call to make a difference has been heard by millions.
However, the doors to providing hands-on help are open only to those with specific skills. Not unlike most areas of business these days, the ability of the individual to contribute to the success of an enterprise is increasingly limited to two spheres: either financially or through the use of specific skills or expertise. Even locally, we see that the businesses and individuals making their way easily through this troubled economy are meeting the specific needs of customers.
For several centuries, the labor needs of industry were met by individuals with little or no personal skills. What was needed was a willingness to work hard at the repetitive tasks that lead to product assembly; physical strength, perseverance and endurance were the attributes that contributed most to the success of a farm and most other ventures. That is rapidly changing in this new age of information and service.
Today, a mechanic must know how to use a computer in order to repair a car. A mix of computer skills is also required for entry level jobs with any organization, whether you are otherwise a medical doctor or store clerk. Savvy entrepreneurs depend upon technology to affect the profitability of their ventures. Across all industries and at every level, individuals must acquire technology training in order to succeed.
Emergencies make this need for training even more apparent. While he had the wherewithal to remain calm in the face of disaster, Capt. Sullenberger drew from years of training to bring a commercial jet down on water in a densely populated area. Highly specialized search and rescue teams are making the difference in the first days in Haiti, which is evolving into the need for the expertise of medical professionals. As Haiti moves forward, its ability to dig its way out of this crisis and the extreme poverty that preceded it will be forged by the ability of individual Haitians to get the training that will give them the skills to flourish in this changing world.
As a country and region, our economy creates a different kind of emergency. Many are in personal crisis and in need of resources they don’t yet possess. In order to get through this situation and create prosperity for ourselves we must take advantage of training opportunities and acquire the skills that will make us market viable. In the face of this emergency, each one of us makes the difference.