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HELP OTHERS DEAL WITH `SKILL GAP,’ BENNETT URGES

SHARE HELP OTHERS DEAL WITH `SKILL GAP,’ BENNETT URGES

Utah's junior senator counseled Utah State University students Thursday to perform a most valuable type of service.

"May I challenge you all to participate in this battlefield, the battlefield of helping people acquire skills," said Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah. "The goal we should strive for as a society is that everyone take care of (him) or herself."Bennett's speech was part of Service Week at USU.

Bennett called on the students' knowledge of history to make his point, asking them to compare the Industrial Revolution of the mid-19th century to today's information age.

"We are in a revolution as significant as the Industrial Revolution. You have seen the emphasis shift" from industry to information, he said. "We were just beginning to feel like we had a handle on the problems of the industrial age when the information age hit."

Just as the industrial age created pockets of unemployment and difficulty, Bennett said, the information age is causing similar problems on a larger scale.

Bennett pointed to the gap in income between a corporate CEO and an entry-level worker. He reasoned the income gap was widening not because of corporate greed but because of a disparity in skills.

Bennett reminded students of Karl Marx's prediction that capitalism would weaken loyalty to nations while strengthening loyalty to economic class, leading to warfare between classes instead of nations.

"Karl Marx may turn out to be right about class warfare if we cannot close the skill gap in some meaningful way," the senator said. "The people who are at the upper end of the skill level will do very well in the information age, (but) our society is in danger of being torn apart by the disparity that exists.

"You're going to fall on the right side of the skill gap," Bennett told the audience. "You have an obligation and a responsibility to care for those that fall on the other side of the skill gap."

While there will always be people needing our assistance, Bennett said, society's goal should be that everyone becomme self-sufficient.

"I see this as the greatest societal challenge," he said. "It is a greater challenge than fixing Social Security or saving Medicare. Face it with zest and enthusiasm and take it on as a lifetime activity."

Bennett was asked how politicians view honesty.

"There are politicians for whom winning the next election is the most important goal in life," he said. "Those who have set that as their goal look upon honesty as foolishness if it gets in the way of achieving their goal.

"(But) overwhelmingly, those that choose public service as a profession do it for the right reasons."