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Bill George

Harvard Business School Professor, former Medtronic CEO

Readers Respond to My Article on “German Economic Miracle”

My sincere thanks to all of you who responded to my article on “What Minnesota Can Learn from the Germany”. You offered some great insights and affirmations. Here are some of your best inputs:

“REALLY EXCELLENT….Please get this into The Times….all the media you can….and especially Obama’s office….certainly the Congress needs to see it….many thanks.”

“As a retired teacher and host of 4 exchange students from Germany, I have known that the German method of education and training students to achieve success is working far better than the American model.  I was amazed at the intelligence and skill level of each of the 4 German boys that stayed with me.  I have since visited 2 of them in their native Germany and have seen first hand how Germany has rebuilt from near total devastation just after WW2.  This country should indeed be a model for the US.” 

“Terrific article on the German education model and its effect on business.  As the first American-born in my German family (and dual citizen), I’ve often mentioned to my (American) friends that the United States’ biggest ‘mistake’ was to exclusively emphasize the merits of a proper University education, while dismissing anything else as second rate.  It is always a treat to engage with German companies and discover that everyone on the payroll seems to be pulling in the same direction; it is almost implicit in the culture that everyone has a valuable talent and skill to hone and apply for the benefit of the individual and the common good.”

“I wanted to jump up and down and yell “YES”!!! Bill George, the author, gets it!!! And, admittedly, I bragged a little to myself because – ‘tho only a ND “farm boy” – it’s what I’ve been saying for literally years.”

“Your message needs to be heard “loud and clear” all around the US – not just in MN. Our country either must learn from Germany’s example or risk sliding into second class – or worse – economic status.”

“I work with a number of job shop manufacturers who are frustrated by the lack of skilled labor for job openings that they have.  As a result, I was extremely interested in your article in the Mpls Star Tribune last Sunday.  I have attached a copy of another article from the Tribune on 10/31/2011 about a program called “Right Skills Now” that I thought you might find interesting.  As you can see in the article, there are nine positions for every graduate.  I also have met with a person with Newgate Education Center that provides tuition free automotive technical training.  I also attached some information on them as well.  They indicated that they have a 100% placement rate for their graduates. I might add, I am not affiliated with either of these programs. I just thought you might find them interesting.”

“Unfortunately, in my opinion, our education system is far too biased toward a college education even if it does not train a person make a living.  I say this as an individual with a post graduate degree. This is a natural bias of educators having college educations.  Until we dispel the notion that a person is not “successful” without a college education, as opposed to post secondary education or as you have indicated, training in a trade, I see no change forthcoming.  I believe that we need to integrate people with training in the trades (as opposed to just educators)  into our public education system to eliminate the bias.  I have clients who have tried to impress upon high school educators the viability of a career as a machinist, or machine operator with little success.  I hope your article helps move us in that direction.”

“My observations and frequent visits to Germany confirm the solid points which you registered.  They are both pointed and timely.  Interestingly, following a careful five year campaign to attract the “right” distributor for Germany, our key European target, we recently signed a distribution contract with Linde Gas.  My interactions with them and with a very close friend, CEO, and owner via his family of a Mittelstand entity at over 500,000,000 Euros all substantiate your theses. That said, Germany does not carry the socalled “minority characteristic load” that the U.S. does.  Germany has also choked off much of the immigration factor as well.  Preparing their “next generation” is where they seem to excel.  And, that seems to be at the center of your important points.” 

“Moving “College and University Four Year Degree” from its “Only Ticket to the Future” image in the public mind to a right choice for 30-40% of the population will also need to be sought.  Degradation of the quality of the products of many four year college programs is also part of the problem.”

“I salute your choice to continue to be a voice for leadership and wisdom outside “the Company Office” and hope that you are finding much purpose and fulfillment in your work at Harvard.  Reminding students and peers at a campus that keeping at least one foot on the ground as we peer at the stars is important to leadership success and personal growth success.”

“First, I want to say what a great article!  I agree with you completely.  I worked at 2 small manufacturing companies with limited resources over 18 years.  We tried to incorporate some of your ideas on a limited basis under budget constraints. The only candidate that has a clue about how to turn this country around is Jon Huntsman.  The rest of them call Europe a bunch of socialist countries.  If Germany is a socialist country, bring it on; I am all for it.”

“Thank you for your great article in today’s business section! After reading it I feel proud of having been born and raised in Germany for the first 15 years of my life and I have often wondered why I left my homeland. That was 60 years ago and I have been an American citizen for all this time but I will always be torn between the 2 countries. The thing I totally agree with you and what I have mentioned to many people here is the German apprenticeship system. Not everybody is ready for college after leaving high school and learning a trade will keep a person working for a lifetime. My mother owned a beauty shop and always had several apprentices working for her. My grandfather had a plumbing shop and as his sons grew up several became apprentices and ended up with a large company because of all the rebuilding after the war. Your article made my day!”

“That is a good and pretty accurate article about the German education system, That is what I experienced  as I went to Germany in 1961 for an apprenticeship in Munich as an auto mechanic. I stayed there, married and had a child whom I guided through the school system and everything worked great. The skill I learned in the BMW factory allowed me to introduce the autobody repair system called Paintless Dent Removal here in Minneapolis,Mn. I am still practicing this trade and enjoying it.” 

If you’d like to share your thoughts please emailing me at bill [at] bpgeorge [dot] com.