Saturday, November 3, 2012

No Shortage of Jobs - Just Shortage of Workers

While the politicians and the press and the pundits and the critics continue to rail about the unemployment and how to return jobs to Americans, the data continues to show plenty of jobs with no qualified workers.  The real drought in American society is training and skilled labor.  The national unemployment rate would probably be closer to 6% if we had more machinists and welders and drillers and IT technicians - all the jobs we have steered young people away from during our mindless push toward bachelor degrees for all students.

There are as many as 3.6 million unfilled jobs across America - the highest number of vacancies in years.  To his credit, President Obama has made this more of a priority, calling for increased investment in community college and job training programs.  That is certainly more than Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have offered - as they simply believe that cuts in dividends and marginal rates will magically spur hiring.  It won't.  But at the same time, President Obama's plan has not seen the investment he touts - for his Race-to-the-Top has done nothing to promote Career and Technical Education.

Perhaps, if our leaders simply checked the news and asked employers, we might start putting people back to work.


Marshall Doris said...

We have to stop lying, to ourselves and to our students, that everyone must go to college. It is currently fashionable to quote the statistics about how much more college graduates earn over a lifetime, but as you point out, it is the relative scarcity of people with degrees that makes that true.

We also need to face up to the reality that college requires a style of abstract thinking that is not suited to every student's interests and abilities. What we used to call vocational education got a bad name because educators made two mistakes with it.

First, we selected the students to be put on the vocational track, often on the basis of a mistaken understanding of a students interests and capabilities. A fairer method is to explain to students and parents what the options are and allow them to decide what is best for that student's future. This also means no tests or other requirements to get in the college prep program, because if students don't succeed, it is far better and less disruptive for them to find that out on their own than for a school official to take the rap for denying opportunity to any child.

Second, we dumbed down the vocational curriculum and took critical thinking out of it. "Dumb" jobs requiring no higher order thinking skills have either disappeared or pay so poorly that they condemn workers to a lower class existence. Career and technical education, as currently conceived, recognizes there is a place for higher order thinking that is more concrete in nature and less abstract, and emphasizes preparing students for the kinds of high skill, high pay jobs that are worth having.

Pretending that every student can, or even should, go to college is to ignore the emperor's lack of clothes.

mmazenko said...

Very well said, MD. The primary flaw that undercut CTE was that we funneled poor and minority students to the vocational track, while all the white middle class kids went CP. Certainly, the dumbing down of CTE was a huge mistake. For more thoughts on that, check out the book "Shopcraft as Soulcraft."