I made it to the front of the line, and a friendly girl in her mid- to late 20s recited her welcoming lines. I asked for a coffee in my portable cherry-red tumbler. She handed me my filled mug and rang me up.
The total was $1.55, including my astronomical 10-cent discount for being earth-friendly. I gave her $2, which she registered into her computer register.
Then, I dug into my pocket for a nickel and handed it to her. She took the nickel and looked confused. She gave me the 45 cents that the machine had already rung up, and frazzled, she took them back and said, “Oh no, wait.” I didn’t say anything, as I wanted to see her figure out the right change. She thought about it, then mentioned ringing up the entire transaction again. In order to avoid more time being wasted, I told her, “I just need 50 cents back.” She opened the register and gave me the appropriate change.
Watching this, I always become concerned at first at the individual in front of me, and at the educational system in place, next at math teachers in general, and lastly at parents and our society.
I’m not the only one to notice the lack of preparedness of many people working in the customer service industry. This includes young people and older individuals. Whereas once, being a sales individual, a waiter or a customer service representative was an occupation, a source of pride and even an art, it is now merely a job, one that is often performed by individuals without the basic necessary skills.
What skills could possibly be needed for these jobs? The answer is, many more than we’re currently equipping our labor force with — from arithmetic, logic, manners and civics to critical thinking, problem solving and financial literacy.
A group of leaders in various industries in our community highlighted this epidemic of lack of skills within the customer service labor force as one that requires in-depth analysis.
While this is not entirely the fault of the individuals, we must explore as a community what we can be doing better. Ariana Arcenas-Utley, Kelly Schmandt, Ben Spencer and I have explored issues related to the future of Santa Barbara County’s economy with a special focus on skills preparedness to meet the labor force demands of the region as part of Leadership Santa Barbara County TAD (Topic Awareness Day).
After seeking community outreach and leading discussion, the group will be presenting a series of speakers and activities from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11 at the Unity Shoppe, 110 W. Sola St. in Santa Barbara, focusing on the three areas that are most relevant to the future of our economy and appropriate development of skills of our labor force: high school education, workforce development and small-business development.
This presentation is open to the whole community to join this discussion. For more information, call me at 805.886.5207.