New challenges call for new traditions

Feb. 3, 2010
Joel Leonard, contributing editor, says we can reach new and unskilled workers in a more contemporary manner.

Are you concerned that the over gifting of Christmas is giving us desensitized, ungrateful kids? Has the tradition of giving our kids presents given us spoiled, entitled brats? Is it time for a new tradition?

My family also shares thisconcern, so in 2008, after my nieces and nephews played with their new toys from Santa Claus and were getting tired of prancing around in new cowboy boots that lit up when they walked, my brothers and I donned cowboy hats and strapped neckerchiefs around our faces. We burst into the room, fired off our cap pistols and told the kids that we were taking their presents and their new boots.

We were met with strong resistance. My six-foot-four-inch frame ran into the outstretched lower jaw of my 24-inch tall niece who, with her hands on her hips, proclaimed that those were her boots and that we were not taking them. Then, my five-year-old nephew found his new rifle cap gun and lisped to his cousins that he would protect them against those “wobbers.” He and the others chased after us. When they fired their cap pistols, my brothers and I acted as if we were struck by cannon balls and collapsed to floor. The kids were victorious at vanquishing the evildoers and saving their presents. They really hung onto them and seemed to appreciate the presents more.

We dressed up as pirates this year — pictures are on my Facebook page if you dare to look. But, what does this have to do with the maintenance crisis?


Traditional views of education are being challenged and revamped. As we know, without a pipeline of qualified workers, companies will struggle as skilled workers depart and are replaced by workers with no clue as to what the equipment is, much less able to manage and produce quality products and services.

Several Ph.D.s are studying electronic gaming and how games can be leveraged to provide a stimulating educational experience. The goal is to motivate future workers and engage them by making dry content exciting. The idea is to integrate history, language, science, technology, engineering and mathematics to expose students to possibilities in the real and virtual world so they’ll understand the purpose and relevance of education.

The traditional education model of teachers standing in front of room lecturing, requiring dry reading assessments, expecting kids to memorize massive amounts of information just to be tested later simply doesn’t work. Education needs a serious upgrade.

Gayla S. Keesee, MEd, curriculum designer for Fayetteville Technical Community College, not only gets it but is working passionately to reduce educational dropout rates. She is researching new approaches and implementing her findings with teams of others to build more effective tools that complement the educational experience. She shares her insights and programs on her blog at

As an example of the new educational experience future students will receive, Dimension M ( is an immersive video game world that engages students in learning mathematics. Pre-algebra and algebra objectives are covered through a series of missions that bring math into a world that today's students understand. The games are research-based and linked to specific objectives. Download a demo to try out this new approach.

How is that going to foster better manufacturing, facilities, and fleet maintenance and management? Employers constantly complain that candidates don’t have prerequisite math skills necessary to program, develop, operate and manage equipment.

Our educational system is getting upgraded with immersive, educational experiences. Interactive 3-D programs are being developed to manage, operate and repair robotics, PLCs, CNC equipment and even educating workers on the fluid dynamics of hydraulics and pneumatics.

The traditional training program where younger workers follow older workers around doesn’t generate effective results either. The older worker probably never was taught how to train and probably is conflicted about confiding his undocumented knowledge and losing job security.

By adding virtual games to expose gamers to the nuances of manufacturing the way ABB does (, we’ll develop a future talent pool with appreciation for the finer details that drive our economy forward. As other countries take our manufacturing and service jobs, our academic systems finally are beginning to appreciate the jobs they used to ridicule and providing not just the presents that we need, but presence of leadership to guide us forward. I hope that more step up to add new traditions to complement, if not replace, antiquated, worn out practices.

E-mail Contributing Editor Joel Leonard at [email protected].

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