- June 7th, 2012
The stock markets have been raising Cain about the rise in, or lack of reduction of, the unemployment rate in the USA. We are sitting at roughly 8.5% unemployment. Most analysts agree that if you add in the people who are underemployed or just plain not looking anymore for various reasons, the true unemployment rate is closer to 10%. In some places, especially California, and most inner city areas it is closer to 20%.
Bad, Obama. Bad President.
Well, maybe and yet again, maybe not.
(Remember, before you jump on me-- and you know who you are-- I just was sharply critical of the Obama Administration for unleashing cyberwar in a whole new way never before done by anybody, friend or foe-- so I am not necessarily an Obama lover...)
What the news media, left right and center (if any centrist or moderate media still exist, which I doubt) have NOT been reporting is that there are 600,000 or more (!!!) jobs that are not being filled, that could be filled tomorrow, in the USA.
These jobs aren't in the service sector. They aren't in law, finance, or other soft sectors. These jobs are in manufacturing.
Yes, manufacturing. You know, that sector that supposedly doesn't exist anymore because all the jobs were outsourced to China, India and Vietnam.
And those jobs aren't white collar jobs, by and large. They are the good old blue collar jobs many of our parents had...and they pay awfully well-- up to $30 an hour in some areas.
So why are they going unfilled?
It isn't because the President isn't trying hard to fill them. It isn't because the companies won't hire because of the European Euro crisis, or the debt crisis in the US, or elsewhere. These are the jobs companies are currently hiring for RIGHT-EFFING-NOW and cannot fill.
I repeat, cannot fill. Not waiting until after the election to fill, not waiting until the recession is over to fill. These are jobs that are OPEN right now.
The reason...it's the dirty little secret of American education. Nobody is teaching young people to be ready to work in manufacturing. Nobody wants to teach people to work blue collar. Blue collar work is demeaning, nasty, dirty, brutish and every other pejorative descriptor you can lay on it.
The number of people who are between the ages of 12 and 25 who watch the Discover Channel shows about how things are made, like "Modern Marvels" and the like is a very large number. When they go to school, however, they get taught that they should go to college and get an advanced degree. In most school districts, the "shop" facilities are old beyond belief, and the teachers aren't very modern either. This area of education just isn't one school boards have wanted to invest in.
Too bad. I have a friend who lives in Wisconsin. He never went to college. When he was in high school, he fell in love with engines, and racing. As he got older, collected a wife and children, he became a heavy diesel engine mechanic and a member of the Operating Engineers Union. He has been offered job after job to get him away from his employer and some of the offers have been ridiculously high. He is a virtuoso in his field, and makes considerably more than I do...but so do the merely talented mechanics who work with and for him.
In Houston, chemical plant operators and engineers are making six figure wages, and overtime in a lot of cases. There are, on average, 800 jobs vacant in the Houston area every day. Can't find qualified people.
Every President since Reagan has paid lip service to the idea of revitalizing American manufacturing. The Democrats want to put tariffs on imported goods, like that's going to happen. The Republicans want to tax corporations even less than they are, like that's going to keep them from offshoring when they can't find qualified people.
Nobody wants to step on the third rail: we aren't training people to work in factories.
Nobody, at least, until this administration. I have worked since 2010 with the administration on a project called the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition, and peripherally, with the Manufacturing Institute. Here's part of a press release the Manufacturing Institute just sent out:
Last June 8, President Obama announced key steps to getting unemployed Americans back to work and maintaining the competitiveness of the US manufacturing economy. With 600,000 manufacturing jobs going unfilled, President Obama called on The Manufacturing Institute (the Institute) of the National Association of Manufacturers and its partners, including the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC), to help build the educated and skilled workforce US manufacturers need to successfully compete in a global economy.
Last month, the Institute announced significant progress towards achieving a five-year goal to award 500,000 industry-based credentials to individuals, positioning them for employment and advancement in manufacturing jobs. The certification bodies endorsed by the Institute delivered over 84,000 credentials in 2011.
"This joint action between industry, education and the public sector will grow a skilled manufacturing workforce and strengthen the U.S. economy," stated Leo Reddy, CEO, MSSC. "In the year since the President's announcement, MSSC is pleased to have been a major contributor to meeting the President's goal. Given the MSSC's focus on front-line workforce populations with the greatest number of jobs, it is able to certify a large number of individuals for employment and advancement among the 8.3 million front-line manufacturing jobs and the 5.8 million front-line material handling and distribution jobs in the U.S."
"The Institute remains committed to building the educated and skilled workforce our nation's manufacturers need to stay competitive," said Jennifer McNelly, President, The Manufacturing Institute. "The Institute works with community colleges and employers to deliver world-class certification programs like the MSSC Certified Production Technician (CPT) and Certified Logistics Technician (CLT)."
This takes money, which the Republicans specifically have been unwilling to see appropriated. They appear to believe that American manufacturing will be revitalized by giving that money to the Pentagon instead of to the education and training of American workers for the jobs that are open right now.
Frankly, we aren't going to see our economy start to grow until people have jobs. This is the only job-creating activity that I know of right now. Reducing taxes does NOT grow jobs, if there are no qualified workers to fill those jobs.
Companies are beginning to realize they need to grow their own workers. Air Products in Allentown PA has been working with their high schools and community colleges to try to get workers trained for their factories.
So have other major corporations, in many different industries. Even McDonalds has Hamburger University (it is about 20 miles from here, in Oak Brook IL).
There is a danger there, of course. If we permit corporations to grow their own education systems, we have the chance of returning to the "separate but equal" schools that were anything but. This time, it won't always be about race-- it will be about class.
We need to provide top flight education and education opportunities to all of our citizens. That's one of the reasons I squirt steam out my ears and blood out my eyes when somebody proposes cutting programs like "Head Start" and similar HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL programs.
We need to start looking holistically at the costs of things. We aren't willing to do that, because doing that doesn't play in a 15 second sound bite. Some people seem to dispute that there are anything like societal costs for policies we do or do not support.
We should NOT be making people do anything, but we SHOULD be providing decent opportunities for people to acquire the skills they need to make a living. Cutting welfare while cutting schools may make people feel good, but it is the silliest thing since barber surgeons bled people to reduce fever.
Don't want to pay for good schools, good training, fair opportunity? That's fine. TANSTAAFL. You get to pay on the back side to provide health care in emergency rooms for the indigent, for police to catch gangbangers and drug dealers, for social workers to deal with pregnant mothers who can't work because they don't know how, for prisons to hold the largest incarcerated population outside of China, and all those other things. Or we could all agree that the desperately poor people in the inner cities and in places like Appalachia (remember that this is NOT a racial issue-- about 56% of people who live in great poverty are white) aren't worth a pot to pee in, and aren't worth saving.
And don't give me any wheeze about "there are no poor in America." Poverty is relative. Costs are relative. People who have to choose between paying to be feeding their children and themselves and affording day care so they can go to work or cannot afford medicine for their children or themselves-- these people are poor. Period. Dot.
If you consider yourself a Christian, you might remember Matthew 25, verses 35-40.
If you aren't a Christian, consider the Law of Unintended Consequences and the real cost of things over any real baseline.
Let's elect us some leaders who are willing to do hard things we know we need to do to make life better for all of us, not just the wealthy who can afford health care, food, medicine, education and a real start for their children. I don't know where those leaders are going to come from. They surely aren't going to be from either the majority of Democrats or Republicans.