Throughout the Surviving the Bottom Line with Hedrick Smith series, we explore various ways the 1990s economy impacts typical Americans. We found many people who are doing very well -- but also many more who have been left out of the prosperity brought by low interest rates and a thundering bull market. One thing is certain: the 1990s look far different when viewed from middle America than when viewed from Wall Street.
Wherever we looked, Americans do seem to share one thing in common: From Wall Street to Main Street, people are working longer hours just to keep up. You may remember the story of Diane Fritts, the hard-working mom profiled in Living on the Fault Line, the second program in the Surviving the Bottom Line series. Or the story of the Mitchell family, struggling to make time for their two young children while working harder than ever. These are stories repeated across America, told by people from all walks of life.
It’s often called the “time bind,” this idea that for most people to afford a family, they must work such long hours that they often spend less time than they would like with their children. With real wages stagnant since 1989, and the cost of living continuing to climb, what alternative do families have? How will the time bind shape our lives, and society, as we approach the next century? Can America continue to prosper with so many of us forced to neglect family and personal lives?
We encourage anyone with a serious interest in these issues, and others surrounding the new economy, to join our listserv and share their own thoughts, comments, criticisms, and personal experiences. The list is unmoderated, but Hedrick Smith and members of his production team will regularly join in the discussion and debate. Questions about the program and the issues it raises are encouraged, and will be answered whenever possible. In fact, we plan to post exerpts from the discussion right here, so that the public can benefit from our discussion (we will remove your email addresses from these excerpts).
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If you want to dive in, Hedrick Smith has posed a few questions to start the discussion. Note that these questions have been revised as of the airing of the two additional segments broadcast on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer:
1. Has the business boom of the 1990s left your community with a skills gap in its work force?
2. What industries are hurting and what kinds of skills do they need - especially for workers without four-year college degrees?
3. Does industry treat its workforce problems as short-term difficulties that can be solved by quick recruiting in the marketplace, or as long-term problem that requires a community-wide solution?
4. Who is taking the lead in solving the skills gap problem?
5. Is there an effective working partnership between local business leaders and local educational institutions?
6. Are employers in your area getting together to try to deal with their common skills gap problems or are they mainly just competing in the marketplace for the same future employees?
7. What role are community colleges being asked to play in your area in dealing with workforce needs?
8. What special efforts are being made to interest high school students - and even junior high students - in math, science and manufacturing?
9. Are business leaders and community college officials and school officials willing and able to sit down together to talk about the job future of the next generation and seek common solutions that are win-win for all parties?
10. How effective are regional programs in retraining adult workers for new, more promising career fields and then placing them in good, steady jobs in those fields?