Two unusually good ideas from readers this morning, the first from Saundra J. Hardbower of Arlington, the second from a woman who was too shy to receive public credit.
Saundra is a secretary, a field in which well-trained workers have been in short supply for years. Why can't experienced secretaries help rectify that shortage by providing training in a real-world office setting, Saundra asks? If every employer in the private sector allowed a secretary to train someone seeking work as a secretary, a major chunk of the female unemployment problem would be solved.
"During the course of this free training, the (presently overworked) secretary would get a reprieve, albeit temporary, from the perpetual burnout a lot of us are now experiencing in our jobs," Saundra argues. "At the same time, she (or he) would have helped another person enter, or reenter, the work force while moving one step toward solving the problem of the shortage of clerical workers."
I can imagine the objections that employers would raise: too time-consuming in an economy where every second counts. What about insurance and union considerations? If someone wants to be a secretary so badly, why doesn't he/she go to school? What's in it for me?
Time-consuming? Probably the opposite. Ask a secretary to show a rookie the ropes, and the veteran will be flattered. She'll come to work all charged up and ready to put on her best face. There's no loss of efficiency in that equation.
Insurance and union considerations? They could be worked out, I'm sure.
Why not go to school? Many job-seeking secretaries already have. What they need after learning the typewriter keyboard by heart is a sense of the working world that school can't provide. They aren't going to find it if real-world employers don't show it to them.
What's in it for the employer? A nice warm feeling, certainly. And maybe, just maybe, a good secretary he never would have found otherwise.
Suggestion Two: Why don't gas stations provide a discount at the full-service pump for senior citizens?
My shy caller points out that many senior citizens, and perhaps most, can't use the self service pumps because they're too weak to tug or carry the gas hose. As a result, they're forced to use the full-service pumps, where they pay as much as 15 cents a gallon more. When you're on a fixed income, as many seniors are, that pinches.
A full-service discount would be easy to institute, and it would reap considerable public relations benefits. I'd be much more likely to patronize a station that treats its customers according to their special needs, if any, and I think others would be, too.
But if a senior citizen discount proves too difficult or expensive, why not provide help to seniors at the self service pump?
Many is the time I have pulled into the self-service lanes and filled the tank, while an extremely bored attendant stood there, doing absolutely nothing other than waiting for me to finish so he could collect my money. Couldn't this guy rouse himself to pump ten gallons for an elderly customer?