Uncle Sam Wants You

Labor Pains

"It's about time."

That was Toby Malichi's initial thought as he exited the 21st Century Skills for 21st Century Jobs summit in Washington, DC. The event highlighted skilled-worker shortages, which Malichi has experienced personally.

For nearly three months in mid-1998, the international entrepreneur had conducted more than 10 interviews to find a trade specialist. "I needed someone who could identify export opportunities abroad and who would also serve as a liaison to us and our potential strategic partner," Malachi says.

While the candidates he interviewed were enthusiastic, he couldn't find someone with the right skills and ultimately left the position unfilled. "That doesn't necessarily mean we have to change direction, but it does slow down our ability to market to and make presentations to potential clients," says Malichi, 49.

Malichi is hopeful that skills training will liken the typical U.S. worker to the old violin that initially couldn't be auctioned for $5 - but that sold for $500 after a little polish. Says Malichi, "Our workers just need a little polish."

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This article was originally published in the May 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Uncle Sam Wants You.

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