The hefty young man approached me as I rounded the corner in the hallway to my office.
"That hiring place, they not here no more?" he asked.
"You mean The Budd Group (a human resources agency with an office next to mine)?" I answered. He was standing beside the door with the sign noting "The Budd Group." He nodded.
"They closed?" he asked.
"Their schedule is on the door," I said, pointing to the sign about four feet away. I looked at the sign. "It says they're closed today."
"When they gonna be open?" he asked.
The schedule on the door gave hours for the next day. I pointed it out to him, and he walked away.
I see quite a few job seekers coming down the hallway, looking for a job. Sometimes, they will stick their head in my office to ask about jobs when the HR folks next door are not in. Many of them, but not all, are in the same classification as the young man with all the questions — clad in baggy shorts and a T-shirt, a classic "dress for success" style — and lacking in basic grammar and speaking skills.
In a city with chronic unemployment that often runs nearly double the statewide jobless rate but with vacancies that can't be filled at major high-tech industries, my hallway conversationalist is an example of why so many are jobless and so many quality jobs go unfilled.
Education is the key, politicians keep saying, and it's true. But education begins long before kindergarten. Learning to speak clearly with correct grammar begins early in life, and so does the habit of ungrammatical, slurred half-sentences. Reading — such as reading that sign on the office door — is an essential skill that too many dropouts never developed. It's obvious that reading is not a talent many of these job seekers have. And that human resource agency now takes applications only online. If you can't find your way from power-on to double-click to QWERTY, you won't get a job.
And there's little anyone can do to make up for what you should have learned 10 or 20 years before.