Interview with Dr. Elmore Alexander
Earlier this month, Elmore Alexander, dean and professor of management at Marist College, wrote an op-ed piece in a Sunday edition of the Poughkeepsie Journal. His article, "U.S. workforce must boost skills for third industrial revolution," compared business and economic climates of today to the past two industrial revolutions experienced in this country. He also noted to necessary changes that American business owners and workers need to employ if we are to be successful in this new revolution. Of course after reading the article, I had a few questions for Mr. Alexander. Part of our interview can be found below.
Q: You compare the technological advances of today to a "third industrial revolution." Your article highlights that in this country's previous revolutions, semi-skilled workers were able to meet with success and achieve the American dream. What role do you believe a college education plays in order to obtain similar success in today's global real-time marketplace?
A college education has become vital. More specifically, a college degree with technical and information technology skills is even more important. That is why we chose to focus on the challenges of managing in a virtual environment with our MBA program.
Q: You also talk about the global workforce of today demanding skills and aptitudes unlike anything that we've seen in the past. Can you give any specific examples of these new skills and aptitudes that those looking to enter the workforce, particularly the business field, should seek to develop in order to make themselves more marketable in this ever-changing work climate?
Individuals have to be able to deal with data analysis and information technology. It starts with the ability "to make spreadsheets hum" and continues into more sophisticated analysis. It also involves an evolution of "soft skills." If the environment in which the leader is managing is virtual, then motivating, managing conflict, and communicating in this environment must change. "Management by walking around" must be adapted into the world of email and social media.
Q: In your opinion, how would a similar scooter assembly line in the United States today compare with the highly functional and skilled one you visited in India?
The American assembly line is becoming more sophisticated but we have yet to tap the kind of expertise that I saw in India. Part of the reason is that we are not graduating enough engineers and technical workers to staff our plants in that way. This is where we need a renewed emphasis much like the response to Sputnik in the late 1950's.
Q: You mentioned in your article that we will need support on both the state and national levels in higher education, similar to the funded science programs in response to the space race in the late 1950s, if we are to succeed in today's technology revolution. In what ways do you think that funding could be utilized in order to help achieve this goal?
Funding could be used to attract students to science and technology programs. Last year, we were able to attract a significant number of new computer science students to study at Marist because of significant NSF funding. This is the kind of thing that happened in the 60's.
Q: You said that "The jobs being created today involve computer, design and engineering abilities that can be a challenge for even recent graduates of our best technical colleges and universities." How do you feel that Marist helps to prepare its students entering such a workforce?
Historically, Marist has been ahead of the curve on technology education. Our partnerships with IBM have been critical to our technological advancement. This is the case with the MBA's focus on management issues in the virtual environment.
The full article can be viewed at: http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012305060047
Written by Jenna N. Peters