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From Our Partners – Why Johnny Isn’t Ready to Take on Today’s Jobs: The Need for FACT-Based Skill Sets

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“Those who can, do. Those who can’t?  Teach.” This old adage must be replaced with, “Those who can, MUST teach, in order to promote a pragmatic, realistic perspective within the upcoming workforce.” –James Carlini


Today, the traditional promise, “A college degree will unlock the doors to better opportunities” rings very hollow with many Millennials. They have not found a lot of good jobs, and they still see a mountain of student loan debt hanging over their heads.

There are opportunities available, but in many cases, there are fewer doors and the locks have changed.

What worked before in positioning oneself for a good job and “unlocking that door of opportunity” doesn’t necessarily guarantee success today. Some new keys you must have include skill sets focused on Flexibility, Adaptability, Creativity, and Technology in order to be marketable in the current global economy. I refer to these as FACT-based skills.

Many public school systems are not teaching these key skills for today’s jobs, and there is a disconnect when people graduate high school.  They cannot just walk into jobs like their grandparents did 50-70 years ago.  If they go on to college, there is no guarantee those FACT-based skills will be part of their curriculum.


The skill sets needed for today’s jobs goes beyond what is still being taught in many public schools. Skill sets needed to compete in today and tomorrow’s global economy are FACT-based.  (See Chart 1-1)

FACT-based education is much more critical than learning the Three R’s of yesterday: Rote, Repetition and Routine – which all add up to “Regimentation” (The skill sets required for industrial-age jobs.)

Remember, public schools were developed to get a workforce assimilated from an agrarian society into an industrial-age society, where many were needed to work in factories and have factory-related skill sets for routine and repetitive-function jobs.

The Three R’s may have been excellent skills to acquire and apply in industrial-age jobs in the 1930s and 1940s, but they are not going to move Johnny (and Jane) far in today’s and tomorrow’s challenging jobs.  Jobs where nothing is routine, and there is no such thing as “a routine day.”

Today’s students in public schools should be focused on acquiring FACT-based skill sets. This is what is needed by young adults in order to compete successfully in today’s and tomorrow’s job markets.

CHART 1-1:  FACT-BASED SKILL SETS (Keys to getting beyond Minimum-wage jobs)

FLEXIBILITY Learning a couple of skills today does not set you up for a lifelong career. Lifelong continual learning and learning how to be flexible is critical.
ADAPTABILITY Jobs are not “routine” anymore. Things change and the worker needs to adapt and assimilate to sometimes constantly changing conditions.
CREATIVITY How do you attack a problem? Solutions evolve as challenges change. Creative people are needed for innovation as well as defining alternatives for dynamically changing environments.
TECHNOLOGY Every industry has been touched by computerization. Computer skills have become “basic skills” you must have in order to be viable in the workforce.

Source: LOCATION LOCATION CONNECTIVITY, James Carlini, All Rights Reserved


Today’s and tomorrow’s business problems are not routine. They need to be approached with flexibility by people who have creative and adaptive problem-solving skills. Plus, the answer is probably going to be technology-based or tied to some technology-driven solution, no matter what industry you are looking at – including government.

After twelve years of being bombarded by “The Three R’s,” high school graduates are ready for industrial-age jobs which required the “Regimentation” of those skills in their daily routine.

Unfortunately, most of those jobs are long gone.

The jobs of today, as well as tomorrow, need to be filled with people who possess a whole new set of flexible, adaptable, and creative skills using technologies, in order to be successful and forge real career paths.

Industrial-age educational approaches and solutions need to be abandoned. Traditional approaches to businesses as well as public infrastructure are not sufficient anymore and new skill sets need to be adopted in order to function within a global digital economy. This is a hidden obstacle still present in many organizations’ corporate cultures today.

The “industrial-age framework” of The Three R’s instilled in people’s minds from public education is actually hindering them in trying to grasp and overcome today’s complex problems in many diverse industries.

Today, broad-based education is important, not only for those aspiring to get into tech-related businesses, it is also important for those who want to build upon it to develop and grow businesses from an entrepreneurial perspective.

Approaching group projects through small teams and learning team dynamics as well as being creative and adaptive in developing solutions for complex problems is critical. It’s not enough to be a “team player” today; we need to develop more adaptive and creative team leaders.

Many colleges and universities are not preparing a workforce for today’s multi-tasking, multi-disciplinary focus. In many cases, higher education has not really changed its formula for management and real estate education in 30+ years and yet the workplace, technology, and global market place have changed substantially in 30 years.

What was once considered diverse and independent industries, now have common ties, shared technologies, and inter-related foundations which should be noted as well as presented in higher-level curricula.

Plus, what is the half-life for the value of a degree today? Continual learning throughout a 30-year career is more important for career development and sustainability than the initial degree you receive at the beginning of your career.

A better philosophy to present and adopt is, “There are no experts in this industry, the best you can be is a good student – ALWAYS learning.” Every course I taught started with this statement and it really changed the learning dynamics in the classroom.


We need to instill a set of life-long qualities in students, not just hand them a piece of paper to identify a milestone. Continually learning new skills is important to sustain a career.

Ongoing training and education is critical. Many organizations should reinstate tuition reimbursement as a benefit in to insure a competitive workforce. Most quality methodologies (like TQM, Six Sigma) have continual education as a basic tenet, yet how many organizations, who say they are “quality-focused,” have eliminated tuition reimbursement?

This need for FACT-based education is pervasive across many industries.  Here is one example:

Today’s workplace challenges require a much broader-based employee who can look at problems and react with a much broader set of skills than the typical employee of the past who had a “silo” degree. (A single-discipline degree focused in a narrow area.)

We do not need single-skilled, single discipline-focused, people as much as we want multi-disciplinary people in leadership positions. (See Chart 1-2) The blue diagram represents four individual people versus the gold diagram representing one person with multi-disciplinary skills.

Hands‑on experience may help broaden an individual with a single-degree focus, but it is not the best approach.  The larger issue is to find someone who can readily understand, adapt and assimilate the application of new communications-based information system technologies to their organization’s business needs as well as understand the new convergence of disciplines that forge new interdisciplinary markets.  Degree programs need to prepare people for these types of complex markets.



Source: LOCATION LOCATION CONNECTIVITY, James Carlini, All Rights Reserved


I wrote, LOCATION LOCATION CONNECTIVITY, to provide a legacy of broad-based knowledge and experience on high-tech issues spanning next-generation real estate, infrastructure, and technology.  These areas are converging and impacting regional economic development and sustainability.

As discussed in the book, “frameworks for the future” address new ways of combining and analyzing things which can provide opportunities for people in the beginning of their careers as well as those in the middle or end of their careers.

Institutions, including traditional universities and colleges, should be delivering those courses today.  They need to re-vamp some of their obsolete curricula to fit today’s and tomorrow’s educational requirements.

Millennials should pick up my book because they are the ones who seem disenfranchised with “traditional business cultures” in many organizations. Those who already have a degree and are in debt from college loans must take a second look at what they can fit into and what will get them more than a minimum-wage job.

It is not about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills as much as it is about FACT (Flexibility, Adaptability, Creativity, and Technology) skills.

21st century challenges will not be solved by 20th century solutions. College degrees, especially ones rooted in a 20th century curriculum, are not the universal solution anymore to obtaining and sustaining a good career in the 21st century.

Author’s Note: Contents of this white paper are mostly excerpts and concepts from my book, LOCATION LOCATION CONNECTIVITY, a comprehensive and visionary book discussing the convergence of real estate, intelligent infrastructure, technology (Smartphones, WiFi & DAS Networks), and their combined impact on regional economic development and sustainability. It also discusses the need for changes in higher level education and executive preparation for these areas.


Mr. Carlini, President of CARLINI & ASSOCIATES, is involved in planning & designing mission critical network infrastructures. He also served as an award-winning adjunct faculty member in the Executive Masters and undergraduate programs at Northwestern University for two decades. His background includes being a Practice Area Director at Arthur Young (now Ernst & Young, a Big Four firm), manager at Illinois Bell and software engineer at Bell Telephone Labs.

He was the Mayor’s Consultant on the planning and conceptual design of the Chicago 911 Center; strategic advisor on several Intelligent Business Campus developments; and advisor to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on trading-floor technologies as well as the international GLOBEX network.

Contact him at 773-370-1888 or

Copyright 2015 – James Carlini