Opinion: Mind the gap

Our British English language progenitors are often despaired by our misuse of the words they’ve given us. To be sure, we’ve taken some of the aristocratic air off of the mother-lounge; but in fairness, we’ve also managed to incorporate dozens of new words, ideas and languages and made what could have died with the sun-set of the Empire into a living and vibrant lexicon. In London, one rides a lift, rents a flat, and minds the gap – while we colonials take an elevator, lease an apartment and watch our step.

Over lunch on Jan. 22 at Oak Hill Mansion in Carmel, Gov. Mike Pence with a panel of business and community leaders aim to address the “skills” gap. Inspired by the event invite and amused by how our linguistic forbearers might have interpreted the couplet, I undertook to better understand the phrase. The “gap” refers to the space between skills required for a job and the skills possessed by the would-be job-seeker; but it also indicates a significant breach between employer expectations of manner, creative thinking and collaboration.

In fact, a 2013 survey of 500 top US executives cited a gap of soft skills as twice as important as technical ability. Leadership and computer ability combined made up the remaining 25 percent of the concern. Is it more difficult to teach someone to keep their elbows off the table or chemistry? The comparison is simplistic; but it manifests a fundamental truth. In failing to inculcate social order across all communities, we may be unintentionally perpetuating isolation, segregation and unemployment.

Kudos to the Hamilton County Leadership Academy for creating this opportunity for regional discussion (attend – registration can be found at www.hcla.net). The Brits may be right when they urge us to “mind the gap.” A misstep now could be fatal.