Lynn Fischer founded Hospitality TV (htv ) in 1992 after spending 10 years in the satellite communications business, blending her knowledge in that field with the entrepreneurial spirit that runs in her family.
Fischer admits to being an "evangelist" for increasing skills among low-wage workers. She was raised in a family that manufactured ice and vending machines for the hospitality industry, so she became aware of the challenges facing entry-level workers in this field.
When her father, George Fischer, wound up on the National Restaurant Association's Educational Foundation, that challenge came into sharper focus and helped lead her to create School At Work, a distance learning pilot program with the state of Kentucky. The self-described change agent says she's lucky her family placed such importance on education—a passion she wants to share with low-wage and underskilled workers through the use of technology.
Through htv, Fischer tried for several years to sell basic skills training directly to employers, which met with little success. "I realized that employers would pay for functional skills training, but not continuing education," Fischer says of the workplace-specific curricula that saw encompasses.
"The adult education dilemma is not just a business problem, but a social problem that you can't put on the backs of business," Fischer says of the need for government funding of innovative literacy and basic skills instruction. And she believes that the corporate training world could do more to help.
"We're trying to make a difference, but it's such a big mountain," she says. "There is a real leadership opportunity here for the corporate training and development community. I hope that more of them will get involved."
Andrew Meyer from Anne Arundel Community College agrees that more can be done on many fronts. "Inherent in the discussion is upward mobility," says the college's vice president for learning. "No one wants to see anyone stuck in a position. We have to be advocates."
For businesses interested in reaching out to workers, Fischer suggests contacting their local community colleges, the local Workforce Investment Board and its one-stop center or creating an in-house mentoring program. —M.B.