‘Cheers’ for Ratzenberger’s Take on Skills Shortage

As a man who continues to make more than a few dollars from his acting career (think mail carrier Cliff Clavin on Cheers and a character voice in every Pixar movie since Toy Story), John Ratzenberger said many are surprised when he calls for turning off the television (video games, etc.) and sending kids outside to learn how to make things.

John Ratzenberger’s Made in America on the Travel Channel has celebrated the American worker but also highlighted the pending skills crisis in America. A documentary, Industrial Tsunami, to be released in early 2011 will illustrate the threats of this skills shortage to our economy and way of life.

A few of Ratzenberger’s key points during his most interesting presentation this week to the Chamber board of directors:

  • The importance of kids playing and learning with their hands — everything from utilizing the box that contained the new appliance to building the treehouse in the backyard. Ratzenberger was a carpenter (he helped build the stage at Woodstock) and deck hand on a ship, among other jobs, during his younger days.
  • The demise of shop and auto classes in the education system. A member of the board of trustees at Pepperdine and Sacred Heart universities, he says he has advised university presidents that in addition to their areas of study, students should be required to know how to change a tire before they graduate.
  • There is a deficit of 500,000 welders in the U.S. and colleges awarded twice as many degrees a year ago in sports management than engineering.
  • "Blue collar" has almost become a dirty phrase, including in portrayals on television and in the movies.
  • The harm of the entitlement mentality among many today. "You don’t get self-esteem by being handed things; you get self-esteem by making things, by your accomplishments."
  • High standards are a must — in education and all aspects of life. Ratzenberger continues his 15-year relationship with Pixar because it refuses to lower its standards when producing its movies.
  • His top piece of advice for business men and women: get involved in your schools and make a difference.