U.S. educational system can learn from Finland

Feb. 14, 2011
Joel Leonard, contributing editor, says schools in Finland can teach something to U.S. schools.

If we’re going to have a secure, sustainable and prosperous tomorrow, we have to change our social views of maintenance and reliability. Just convincing those in power now doesn’t ensure a strong tomorrow. We have to fix the perception of the maintenance not only in the board room and the boiler room, but in the classroom and the family room.

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It still amazes me how families are blindly going into hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to get their children a college degree. Yet, companies don’t need degrees; they need experience and technical skills and are hiring and paying well for that talent. As Baby Boomers exit the workforce, those needs will only increase.

Our education system appears to be crazy. On average, only 66% of ninth graders finish high school. The U.S. test scores continue to plummet in comparison to global educational systems. Meanwhile, Finland dominates test scores and has very fit students entering the workforce. Believe it or not, 10 minutes of every school hour is dedicated to calisthenics. Can you imagine how many lawsuits would be filed if we tried that in the United States?

While the Finns are busting test records and getting fit, here in the United States we used to live in the land of milk and honey. Now, we are the land of the obese and diabetic.


As A. Whitney Brown, an Emmy Award-winning writer and comedian, said, “I’m as frustrated with society as a pyromaniac in a petrified forest.” That’s why I’ve decided to go to Hel — Helsinki, that is — in late March to fight the Maintenance Crisis. After keynoting the MaintWorld Congress, I hope to learn more about the Finnish education system and more about the European processes to install reliability and economic growth systems. I believe we need to become more Finnish, or we will be finished as world leaders. It also amazes me that companies have disbanded apprenticeship programs to save money and now can’t locate qualified talent to replace the retiring workforce.

If you can’t join me in Hel, I hope you can attend the National Facilities Management and Technology Conference in Baltimore March 15-17. My presentation is on March 15, but I’ll be on hand throughout the event and would love to meet more industry professionals to brainstorm our way to better performance.

I also hope you put on your calendar the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals annual conference in Greensboro, North Carolina, in October. Since it’ll be in my backyard, contact me if you’d like to get together and see some of the interesting sites here in North Carolina. Also, I might be able to get you one of the Joelburgers that Fincastle’s Diner named after me, but only if you promise to do some extra exercise.

I also have some big news to share. During the holidays, our visitors jabbered about their latest activities. One guest mentioned how much they enjoyed listening to NPR’s Car Talk. Then a flash went into my noggin — there needs to be a Job Talk show. So, immediately after the holidays, I arranged a meeting with the NPR station WFDD general manager and pitched my idea. She loved it and said, “Car Talk is very popular and driving is important, but food on the table is more important, and, with the economic changes, a weekly show will help our listeners cope.”

In July, we will be launching Joel’s Job Talk, and links will be on SkillTV.net. I’m in the process of mapping out the first six months of content, and I’ll be developing three seven-minute segments, three two-minute segments and three one-minute commercials for the 30-minute weekly show. We’re going to have a regular job-climate report, kind of a job weather report reporting which jobs are hot and cold. I’ll be featuring difference makers, individuals and organizations that are implementing interventions to accelerate economic growth. Then, we’ll be including provocative moments so our listeners consider other options and not just the status quo. For example, we’ll be discussing the benefits of nepotism in a future episode. If your company is located in a rural environment, a nepotism-ban policy might inhibit performance by forbidding family members to work together.

I also hope you continue to tune into SkillTV.net regularly and sign up for our newsletter as we are continuing to explore solutions to fight the Maintenance Crisis. And I hope you also join the fight. Fix it forward.

Contact Joel Leondar at [email protected].

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