Employment prospects are bright for detection dogs, in fields from law enforcement to search-and-rescue operations to scientific research (such as helping “sniff out” cancer cells). According to Cindy Otto, founder and director of Penn Vet’s new Working Dog Center, at least a thousand working dogs are needed annually just to replace the ones who are retiring.
As Molly Petrilla C’06 describes in this issue’s cover story, “Working Like Dogs,” one way the new center will help meet that need is by breeding and training its own cadres of detection dogs—the first class got under way when the center opened on September 11, 2012. More broadly, Otto and her colleagues hope to identify the factors that lead to training success through detailed observation and analysis of the dogs that come through the program.
“No one has looked at these puppies through these development phases with all of the cognition and learning stuff, let alone with all the interventions we’re doing,” Otto told Molly. “The information we can generate is going to be invaluable not only to our program, but for any other program.”
The data gathering at the center will be more fine-grained than merely determining which dogs are suited for a life of detection work, Otto explained: “One of these dogs that didn’t want to go racing over rubble and stones could totally be successful in another detection realm,” for example.
There are plenty of humans who might well envy that level of attention and sophistication about finding the right job for their capabilities. Instead, many US companies can seem to arbitrarily exclude as many applicants as possible—evidenced by the fact that, as associate editor Trey Popp notes in “Home Depot Syndrome, the Purple Squirrel, and America’s Job Hunt Rabbit Hole,” with millions of Americans un- or underemployed, an estimated 3.6 million jobs went unfilled as of this past November.
For an explanation, employers routinely point to a mismatch between job seekers’ skills and the requirements of available positions. While this scenario usually goes unchallenged, Peter Cappelli, the George W. Taylor Professor of Management, argues that much of the blame resides with the companies themselves.
In a recent Wharton Digital Press book, Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs, Cappelli contends that a combination of technical and personnel factors have made the hiring practices at many US firms dysfunctional and counterproductive. In one extreme horror story, he cites a case where a company couldn’t find one qualified applicant for a standard engineering position, despite receiving 25,000 applications. To change, he says, companies must work to make job requirements more flexible and also take some responsibility for training the work force they need.
At an age when most workers are thinking about retirement, Charles Krause C’69 is instead embarking on a new enterprise. Throughout a distinguished career as a reporter, foreign correspondent, and international public-relations executive, Krause was learning about and collecting artwork in the countries he visited, with a special emphasis on artists engaged with social or political issues. Now, he’s trying to raise awareness of that art—and maybe sell some of it—by starting his own art gallery. In “The Art of Change,” senior editor Samuel Hughes profiles Krause, and describes some of the shows he’s put on so far.
One societal issue where change is coming—but still needs a push in the right direction—is how gay and lesbian athletes are welcomed in the world of sports. That’s the view of the alumni, students, and staff interviewed for “The PATH to GO!” by Dave Zeitlin C’03, which traces the role of several of them in leading the effort for greater acceptance. As one—Paul Farber C’05, who founded the first support group for gay college athletes at Penn back in 2003—put it: “We were part of a movement before we even knew a movement existed.”
—John Prendergast C’80