Saturday, January 17, 2009

Captain Chelsey B. Sullenberger III—An American Hero

I have been thinking a lot about the actions of Captain Sullenberger the past couple of days. He's the US Airways pilot who safely landed an Airbus A320 passenger plane on the Hudson River after the plane's engines were disabled, probably by a flock of birds (or a couple well-placed Canada geese). Captain Sullenberger's cool thinking and knowledge of his airplane saved the lives of 150 people.

Captain Sullenberger is 57 years of age.

How many employers/industries would have tossed this man aside by now? Fortunately for those 150 people and their families, US Airways had the good sense to keep him around. Captain Sullenberger is a prime example of smarts, good military training and a personal interest in investigating aviation crashes and improving training for evacuating airplanes during an emergency.

I will repeat this until I am blue in the face: Older workers have so much to offer today's workplace, and today more than ever. With our economy in the toilet there is little time for people to learn on the job, even with the most impressive college credentials. The biotechnology industry is starting to whine about a shortage of qualified scientists—and of course bemoan the poor quality of education in the U.S. so there are few qualified scientists in the U.S. or in the pipeline. (Do you smell a plea for more guest worker visas?)

I know there are qualified older scientists out there who have been discarded in the name of "cost." I also know that in today's economic uncertain times, older workers do have the good sense to understand the need to bite the bullet and accept a somewhat lower wage than they are really worth. Why is it that employers believe that all older workers will demand too much in salary? Why is it okay to hire a younger worker at (presumably) a lesser salary, only to have to take the time to train that person? Wouldn't it be wiser to hire the older worker who is ready to hit the ground running?

Sadly, I don't see our incoming president select having the testes to take this on. Even though he himself is a "young" baby boomer, he doesn't seem to relate to this generation. By denying the talent that boomers do possess, he (and the rest of the U.S.) is missing out on a wonderful resource that could no doubt assist the nation out of the pickle we are in thanks to the Democratic Congress and the mortgage failure crap quagmire we are all caught in.


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