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Afternoon Shift

The pesky problem of employee low-literacy

Mark O’Hara is president of Andersen Pest Solutions in Elmhurst, Illinois. A lot of his staff  work in customer service, and he says that he needs co-workers with strong verbal and writing skills. He’s struggled to find competent employees. “In some instances, I feel that some high schools haven’t taught the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.”

O’Hara runs his business on laptops and employees need to be able to fill out forms and write reports with strong, concise language. His company is growing and even in this hard economy, he is hiring. He sometimes employs new high school graduates. They make at minimum "45,000 a year, and  get an iPhone, and a laptop,” he says, “and I’ve got to remind you, I kill bugs.”

Problems with literacy recently caused Anderson Pest Solutions to turn down a philanthropic opportunity, which is one of the main tenets of the company. O’Hara was approached to help train residents of the Chicago Housing Authority. He says the idea was to help interested residents control pests in the developments and offer them job opportunities. He jumped at the chance and was disappointed when he realized he wouldn’t be able to spend the time needed to teach them adequate reading, writing and communication skills.

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