Saturday, March 30, 2013

Future Job Skills Shortage in Canada - CBC's The National - Connecting the Dots

CBC hasn't posted an internet clip for this particular news brief yet, but I thought I would comment on it anyway...

I was very interested in what Amanda had to say about the skills shortage in her 'Connecting the Dots' brief on The National on March 29, 2013 about the future job skills shortage in Canada. I think everyone watching was waiting on the edge of their seats to hear which jobs were going to be facing skills shortages in the next few years. Even Amanda said that young people were 'in the dark' as to which jobs would be facing these shortages. Imagine my surprise (and likely everyone else's) when the clip finished without a mention of which job sectors will experience these issues! I don't know if she ran out of time (is Connecting the Dots just a 60 second byte?) and this information was edited out, or what... It seemed to me like crucial information had been omitted.

This article (Hot Jobs: The Growing Divide in the Labour Market - Globe and Mail) highlights this same issue, along with (look to the bottom of the article) statistics and an actual listing of 'Hot Jobs'.  The list includes: Professional engineers (civil, mechanical, electrical, chemical, IT), electricians, welders, heavy-duty equipment mechanics, pipefitters, accountants, physicians,  pharmacists, nurses, therapists,medical technologists and technicians, physical sciences, and management positions that would be associated with this list.

My advice for young people would be to pay close attention to this list of jobs and see where they might fit.  I did that.  I was working as a printing pressman in 1999.  I had one more promotion ahead of me before I would have been in 'job ladder limbo' for the next 20 years.  My wife and I decided to sell our house so that I could go back to school and get trained in IT.  I've been working in IT every since and haven't looked back.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Travel After School? My First Trip - India and Pakistan

Taj Mahal - Agra. 
Best seen in the early morning as there are less tourists and the wind is still for good reflections off of the water. This was taken the first week of November, 1993

My first trip overseas after school was to India and Pakistan.  The year was 1993 and I was living in Texas at the time.  I went to two American friends and we spend eight and a half weeks exploring 10 cities and doing volunteer work on the subcontinent....

I always had a desire to travel growing up.  Right after school I didn't feel quite ready to do a trip overseas on my own.  I didn't know anyone overseas.  Having grown up in small town in British Columbia, I didn't think to look for resources about traveling overseas or ask for help in how to plan a trip (mind you, this was over 20 years ago and travel resources weren't so prevalent then).

Myself, Joanne, and David
after immunizations
A couple years later, I had moved to Texas and my world had gotten a bit bigger.  I had many more friends who had done some traveling overseas,  and I had gotten more comfortable with traveling on my own within North America.  David, Joanne, and I decided to travel together.  Our plan was to volunteer at various missionary bases we were affiliated with as they gave us a place to stay in return.  But first there were some preliminary items to get out of the way.  We needed immunizations and Visa's for India before we could leave.

Planning your trip (at least to some degree) in advance is important.  It can help you avoid getting unnecessarily sick, or having to spend a night sleeping on a bench, or getting turned away at a border because you didn't have the proper documentation.  Planning is also good experience.  As you execute your plan and see what works and what doesn't work you'll gain more confidence and get better at it.  As a result, your trip will be more enjoyable and fulfilling.  We used a guide book extensively to help us with our planning and our day to day excursions.

At the gate at DFW
We left DFW airport in the middle of October, 1993 and flew to London.  After a 6 hour layover (in which we caught a quick train downtown to see Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly Square) we caught our next flight to New Delhi.  We landed in New Delhi early in the morning. 

We spent our first week at a small boarding house in Jangpura, seeing some of the sights, getting acclimatized to the time zone, the food, the culture, and getting visas from the Pakistani embassy for our trip there. During the second week, we stayed in a conference center close to Humayan's Tomb and volunteered at a missions conference.

The Red Fort - New Delhi
Diwali - an Indian holiday known as 'The Festival of Lights' - happened while we were in Delhi.  What an experience that was!  I remember walking early in the evening from Humayan's tomb back to Jangpura with firecrackers going off all around us and roman candles being launched horizontally down the street.

Even though we planned, I found I needed to temper my expectations.  After our time in Delhi, our plan was to catch a train north to Amritsar, heading towards Pakistan.  For some reason traffic on the way to the train station was terrible, and I grew very concerned that we would miss our train.  It seemed hopeless with the traffic the way it was.  However, when we finally got to the station, the train ended up being late departing anyway so there was really nothing to be worried about.  It was an over-night trip and I was concerned about getting robbed.  We had hung our backpacks in the middle of the compartment and I tried to sleep lightly that night.  Sometime late that evening, someone came into the room and reached toward our backpacks.  I quickly reached out and firmly grabbed their wrist.  It was an armed army officer doing rounds - the light switch was under our backpacks.  I felt a little sheepish, but I think he understood.

In Amritsar riding on the top of the bus. 
Joanne is in the middle.  I'm on the right
We road on the top of a bus from the train station in Amritsar to the India-Pakistan border and spent the morning going across the border to Pakistan.  Once in Lahore (30 kms into Pakistan), we realized that we had forgotten our bag with passports and our return airplane tickets back at the border - travel newbies that we were.  We were beside ourselves with worry as we sped back.  Again, our worry was unfounded.  When we breathlessly returned to the border asking for the bag the officials smiled and handed it over.  What a relief!

We spent a week in Pakistan, staying one night in Lahore, several nights with some missionaries from Australia in Rawalpindi, and then spending two nights with an American family in Peshawar.  The father of the family we stayed with in Peshawar worked for the US Food and Drug Administration keeping an eye on the drug smuggling out of Afghanistan.  

Me, overlooking Vidisha (close to Bhopal, India)
from a hill in the town.
Joanne had the foresight to bring along a book called 'Freedom at Midnight' by Dominique Lapierre to add some historical context to our trip. The book went through a brief history of India and then focused on the people and events surrounding the independence of India and Pakistan.  It gave us a deeper appreciation for these two countries and their people.  It also helped us understand the conflicts and riots that were happening between the Hindus and the Muslims while we were there, which eventually lead us to cutting our trip short.  I'd highly recommend finding a book that will give some historical context to your travels.  It will give you a new appreciation and perspective for the history, culture, and people of the country your are visiting.

Riding a rickshaw in Kanpur, India
Returning to India by plane, we traveled through Agra (saw the Taj Mahal) to Kanpur and stayed there for a week.  Then we took a train to Bhopal and did some volunteering in some smaller villages in the vicinity a week.  I loved the food we ate there.  It was mostly a chic-pea curry and fairly spicy.  We ate it with naan bread using only our right hand, as per local custom.  When that week was done, we hopped on the train again and spent a week in Hyderabad.  During this whole time we were hearing reports about riots between the Hindus and Muslims in different cities around India, but it hadn't impacted us directly.

Doing laundry in Pune. 
Sometime traveling gives you
an opportunity to do something
you've never done before
We traveled by train to Pune after our stay in Hyderabad.  It was December by this time, and because we had worked our way south through the country it was still pleasant weather.  After our stay in Pune, we were supposed to catch a train into Bombay (now Mumbai).  However, 4 hours into the trip the train stopped and didn't move for quite some time.  After a while, we heard news that the Hindus and Muslims were rioting in the train station in Bombay and the engineer was afraid to take the train there.  More than one hour passed while we waited to see which direction we would go.  In the end, the train turned around and went back to Pune.  

Once we were back in Pune, we heard that both the Canadian and American embassies were asking travelers to leave the country as it wasn't safe with all the unrest between the Hindus and Muslims.  We hastily made alternative arrangements to leave.  We decided to fly into Bombay and leave that same night.  On our flight into Bombay, David made friends with a fellow that turned out to be the son of a wealthy Indian movie producer.  Once we landed at the airport we encountered a problem.  The city was under curfew with troops on the ground keep law and order - we saw them ourselves.  We had to get to the international airport and had no means to get there because of the curfew.  This friend that David made on the plane apparently had special permissions though, and seeing our dilemma offered us a ride in the international airport in his chauffeur driven Mercedes.  We thought it somewhat ironic that we had been going all over India in all modes of transportation and that our last ride would be in a chauffeur driven limo!

Traveling gives you an opportunity to learn things about yourself.  It give you an opportunity to make your own decisions and be more independent that usual.  Personally, I became more confident and less anxious because of this trip.  I also developed a new appreciation for history and planning.  See my travel resources page for links to sites to help get you motivated.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Career and Personality Testing - A Limited Personal Perspective

I recently did a quick read of Tom Rath's The Strength Finder 2.0.  In it he suggests that people would be more effective in many areas of their lives if they focused on making their natural strengths and talents stronger rather than trying to 'fix' their weaknesses.  Its an interesting thought.  I loved the first sentence of the book.  "At its fundamentally flawed core, the aim of almost any learning program is to help us become who we are not."  There is a web site that accompanies the book, on which you can take a test to discover your top 5 'strengths'. 

I took the test and my top strength is Responsibility.  My initial reaction to this was frustration and disappointment.  I was hoping for Teaching or Mentoring.  Ironically, neither of these two appear as one of the 34 possible strengths listed in the book.  After a couple of days of pondering this result, I can see that I do have a strong sense of responsibility.  Apparently, I have to figure out how to leverage that to my advantage.  I have to say, I don't have much appetite for that right now.

I mentioned this book and my test result to a friend on the bus our daily commute into work the other day.  He is a production accountant in the oil industry.  He laughed and told me about a career test he took just before finishing high school.  It suggested that he should get into hotel management.  At the time, he thought the result was a bit off the wall.  Looking back now, he wonders if that test wasn't closer to the mark than he thought.  It turns out his uncle went into hotel management, and ended up being quite (read very, very) successful.

 I took a career test in high school and remember being (again) disappointed with the result.  I was so put-off that I didn't even both to remember what the result was.  I have always been bothered with personality/career tests in general.  They seem so impersonal and yet could potentially carry so much weight.  Did they work for you?  I'd love to hear some experiences and/or stories...

Sept 22, 2013 - Update
After continuing to ponder my results from this test, particularly my 'top' strength, I can see how it has influenced my decisions over the years - the big life changing decisions.  Here's an example - I was once invited to play as a drummer in a church band that I had dreamed about playing in.  They played songs I wanted to play with the level of quality that I really appreciated.  However, I felt I had to decline the invitation to play because I was already committed to helping a smaller, less developed church with their music ministry.  The leader of that progressive church band who had given me the invite became internationally known over then few years.  I've often wondered what would have happened had I taken advantage of that opportunity instead of declining it. 

I am and continue to be interested in how these '5 strengths' impact and influence me.  My top 5 strengths are: Responsibility, Futuristic, Intellection, Arranger, and Includer.  The book talks about how to use them to your advantage.  There are many times where I feel that while they are definitely at work in me and influencing my thoughts and decisions, they work against me.  Sometimes, I just want a break from responsibility for a bit!
Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath book review

Saturday, March 9, 2013

You Can Do Anything

Poking around different websites on experiential learning, I ran into this post by Marcia Conner.  In it, she talks briefly about the limitations we (or others) put on ourselves both real and perceived, and the potential we have if we take advantage of what we've have been given.  I like how her father played a game with her when she was young, turning the question around and asking 'What couldn't you do?'

For me personally in this context, probably the biggest impact on me was from my Grade 6 teacher.  He told my parents that he thought I could do anything I set my heart to.  Under his guidance that year I had expanded in many different ways - I took a lead role in the school Christmas play, done some detailed artwork, memorized multiplication tables up to 18x18, and memorized all the (current) countries and their capitals.  I believed him and his comments still motivate me.

For just a little more motivation and inspiration, this video clip posted recently by a friend on Facebook.  It's from Oprah's Lifeclass...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

What Should I Do With My Life - Po Bronson

Po Bronson has written a great book called 'What Should I Do With My Life' - true stories of people who answered the 'ultimate question'.  This article (January 2003 - Fast Company) is an adaptation of that book.  I enjoyed the book so much, it put my dreams for the book I've been writing on ice for a while.  It was that good.  Po spent 2 years interviewing over 900 people who have tried to be honest with themselves and where they 'fit'.

You can find out more about the book here, on Po's website.

Some big insights for him while he was researching:
  • The fallacy that certain jobs are 'cool' and others are not
  • Your 'calling' isn't something you inherently know - like some kind of destiny (this hit home with me).  It is a treasure to be searched and fought for
  • Money is not the shortest route to freedom, and we're killing our dreams because we subscribe to this untruth.
  • Asking 'What am I good at?' is the wrong starting point.  Rather try to discover something you are passionate about - and you could stay passionate about - in the long term. (no easy task)
  • In decision making, avoid the pitfalls of leaving doors/options open as your commitment will be lukewarm.  
I highly recommend checking out this page in Po's followup to the book - particularly the questions in the 'Finding Your Story' section.  There's some really good thoughts and exercises in those questions that can be done to help stimulate and broaden your thoughts with respect to 'What should you do with your life?'
What Should I Do With My Life by Po Bronson book review