Motorola U Has A Lesson For All

Motorola Inc. wasn't invited to participate in the recent Detroit jobs conference where seven major industrial nations met to discuss job growth. Pity. With so much discussion about education and job skills, one of America's most successful high-tech companies could have taught the government bureaucrats some real-life lessons.

Motorola is best known for its obsession with quality. It was the first large company to win the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. But Motorola's top managers have now concluded that global competitors will soon catch up in the quality game. By the turn of the century, quality will be a given. Creativity, adapatability, and responsiveness will decide the winners and losers in the year 2005.

Those attributes can only be developed through a company's workforce. So Motorola has decided that lifetime learning is critical to generate the knowledge, independence, and team discipline it will need for the future. It could soon be spending $600 million a year (the price of a new chip plant).

Motorola runs its own school system, Motorola U., with 14 branches around the world, including Tokyo. There is very little learning for its own sake. Instead, students are taught specific tasks, such as how to run a robot, as well as critical thinking and problem-solving. The company also runs a large apprenticeship program where new employees work along more experienced workers. Germany has a long tradition of worker training and apprenticeship. Between 1975 and 1991, its per capita gross national product--the broadest measure of living standards--rose at 2.4% a year. The U.S.'s increased by 1.5% a year. For Motorola, education and training are competitiveness tools to enhance the bottom line. For America, they are the means to a better life for all.