Students, workers not what they used to be

Poorer education, lack of customer service skills rampant today

By happenstance, this week’s Terrace Standard website presents three articles originating from divergent sources yet all converging on the same basic topic — staffing problems in current and future businesses due to unmotivated, poorly educated students.

School District 82 reported “math and literacy success is significantly lower in this district compared to the provincial average, with more than 50 per cent of Grade 7 students not meeting expectations in math.”

That is the outcome of last year paying $140,000 to a “numeracy co-ordinator” to start a district-wide plan to improve math education.

Luckily for taxpayers, funding ran out for this fancy titled position.

But the district is not throwing in the towel. This year a team of teachers will work with a consultant to develop a mathematics plan.

The only plan the district should try is the pre-World War II plan where a math class faced their teacher equipped with a scribbler, pencil, eraser, 12-inch ruler (okay, now a 33-cm ruler) and an eager attitude or work ethic.

No cell phone. No apps. No computer. No calculator. No baseball caps worn backwards. No slouch.

How students can be expected to excel in math with all the distractions sanctioned in today’s classrooms beats me.

In addition, strip math curriculums down to practical elements useful for everyday living. Why has the district fooled themselves into thinking they have classes populated with Sheldon Coopers or Richard Hatfields who might go on to become physicists, astronauts, architects or builders?

In my 80 years I’ve never needed to figure the height of a tree by measuring its shadow on the ground but I do balance my bank account, make change, decide which carton of tomatoes gives the best value for my money.

How many of today’s grads can do that without an app?

Or even with an app?

The school district did not give results of literacy exams but proclaims its “number one goal of improving math and literacy.” Time will tell.

In the second item, the city of Terrace conducted a walking survey of 50 businesses in town, in Thornhill, and in the Northwest Regional Airport to ask about their needs to improve customer service and boost their bottom line.

Finding and retaining qualified staff marked the two biggest challenges for local merchants.

“Thirty-eight per cent of businesses said retaining qualified staff was a challenge. Popular responses included the inability to find staff willing to work part time or shift work, lack of entry-level employees with customer service skills or work ethic, and difficulty retaining entry level staff.”

The third item was a column written by a local business manager and director of the Terrace &District Chamber of Commerce.

He recounted his difficulties trying to make “a large purchase” from a local source after Googling to determine what choices he might buy online.

That didn’t work out for him as he had hoped. Sales people tried to sell him a facsimile he didn’t want, lacked product knowledge, made no effort to order the correct item for him. Only the third vendor had a staffer with all the qualities customers look for – someone who listens and asks questions to adequately understand the customer’s needs, a knowledge of the product, a willingness to supply even if it means ordering.

The columnist ends by saying, “It’s been proven that having well-trained, knowledgeable and thoughtful employees who listen and have the authority to resolve customer service issues will keep customers coming back.”

Twenty years ago, parents decried poor classroom results. These three articles show the situation has only worsened.