Bringing the jobs back home might be easier said than done. The American educational system, run by the same teachers unions that are up in arms about Betsy Devos, is apparently not doing a very good job of educating children.
Teachers are very fortunate that their salaries are not related to student performance.
The New York Times reports:
When the German engineering company Siemens Energy opened a gas turbine production plant in Charlotte, N.C., some 10,000 people showed up at a job fair for 800 positions. But fewer than 15 percent of the applicants were able to pass a reading, writing and math screening test geared toward a ninth-grade education.
“In our factories, there’s a computer about every 20 or 30 feet,” said Eric Spiegel, who recently retired as president and chief executive of Siemens U.S.A. “People on the plant floor need to be much more skilled than they were in the past. There are no jobs for high school graduates at Siemens today.”
Funnily enough, it’s not about having a high school education. These job applicants could not pass at test geared toward ninth grade students. The world of educational testing has shown over and over again that American children cannot compete against their peers in many other countries. Count this as further, and more practical evidence of this phenomenon.
How to solve this problem? Should we send more students to college? Or do we send too many children to college? Unfortunately, if you think that elementary and high school education is bad, college is a racket to end all rackets. It’s yet another instance of what happens when the free market is stifled.
Anyway, the Times does not see any great advantage to sending more unqualified candidates to college:
Even if those jobs returned, a high school diploma is simply no longer good enough to fill them. Yet rarely discussed in the political debate over lost jobs are the academic skills needed for today’s factory-floor positions, and the pathways through education that lead to them.
Many believe that the solution is for more Americans to go to college. But the college-for-all movement, which got its start in the 1970s as American manufacturing began its decline, is often conflated with earning a bachelor’s degree.
Many high school students rush off to four-year campuses not ready for the academic work or not sure why they are there. Government data show that 44 percent of new graduates enroll directly in a four-year college, but based on recent trends, less than half of them will earn a degree within four years. And though two-year colleges have long been identified as the institutions that fill the job-training role, some 80 percent of community college students say they intend to go on for a bachelor’s degree, or they leave with generic associate degrees that are of little value in the job market.
Students go off to college, but they do not have the skills to do college level work. And besides, what are they taught in college: how to protest for social justice?
In other countries, students can choose between a liberal arts education, and an apprenticeship program that prepares them for good-paying jobs.
In America such programs are occasionally sponsored by corporations themselves. Clearly, it is far too little, considering the need and the demand.
The Times tells about how it works at John Deere:
Faced with a skills gap, employers are increasingly working with community colleges to provide students with both the academic education needed to succeed in today’s work force and the specific hands-on skills to get a job in their companies. John Deere, for example, has designed a curriculum and donated farm equipment to several community colleges to train technicians for its dealer network. About 15 to 20 students come through the program at Walla Walla each semester. Because they are sponsored by a John Deere dealership, where the students work for half the program, most graduate in two years with a job in hand.
Siemans did something similar in Charlotte:
Struggling to fill jobs in the Charlotte plant, Siemens in 2011 created an apprenticeship program for seniors at local high schools that combines four years of on-the-job training with an associate degree in mechatronics from nearby Central Piedmont Community College. When they finish, graduates have no student loans and earn more than $50,000 a year.
Apparently, there is bipartisan support for apprenticeship programs in America. One suspects that university system, needing more warm bodies to justify itself, will oppose this.
The Times explains:
Here in the United States, most students are offered a choice between college or a dead end. The college-for-all movement, it seems, has closed off rather than opened up career options. For working-class voters who feel left out in this economy to be able to secure meaningful jobs, educational pathways must be expanded and legitimized — in the process redefining and broadening what is meant by higher education.
One cannot help but agree.