Sunday, May 7, 2017

Our Educational System Is Failing America

The jobs are there. In some cases the jobs are going begging. Companies have job openings, but the American educational system has not provided candidates who can do them. Who’s failing now?

Perhaps we owe it to Common Core. This misguided billionaire-funded concoction does not prepare students to do the well-paying jobs. Perhaps it’s because the curriculum teaches to a test. Perhaps it’s because the curriculum, especially the math portion, is incoherent and unintelligible.

If America is suffering through a strange situation where employers cannot find qualified candidates to do today’s jobs, perhaps we should lay some of the blame on the billionaire proponents of Common Core, along with their so-called experts.

The jobs going begging are not in the arts and psychology. They are technical. They involve doing stuff and making stuff. They are more likely to involve robots. True enough, girls can work with robots, but, in your experience who is more likely to play with robots and who is more likely to play with dolls?

You do not need very many little gray cells to figure that one out.

But, the educational establishment is, Christina Hoff Summers has argued, at war with boys. It wants them to be in touch with their feminine sides. This means less rote learning, less rigorous competition, more storytelling and more getting in touch with feelings. They do not, of course, disparage math, but they think that what really matters is not whether they get the right answer, but how the children feel about their math. Besides, rigorous competition would divide students into good and bad, better and best. And this would undermine the self-esteem of all the delicate snowflakes who know how to march in the streets, but who do not know how to run an assembly line.

The Wall Street Journal addressed the problem in an editorial and a news story.

From the editorial:

These macro-numbers are consistent with what we keep hearing from CEOs of large and small businesses around the country. They have openings but finding workers with the right skills who can pass a drug test isn’t easy.

This week Gregory Hayes of United Technologie sand Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical stopped by the Journal, and both said they have or will have thousands of job openings for skilled technicians that pay a healthy middle-class wage with benefits. Both companies already devote enormous resources to training and retraining their employees, but the U.S. education system isn’t preparing young people to take many of these higher-skill positions.

The Journal recommends more apprenticeship programs. This would mean that our nation will need to overcome its notion that everyone should go to college and should study liberal arts:

All of this underscores the need for more state and local apprenticeship and skill certification programs that can help workers meet these opportunities. A national certification standard that can apply across state lines would also help worker mobility, which has been declining. President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions may not want to hear this, but the labor shortage also underscores the need for more legal immigration for guest workers.

In the Journal news story, Peter Witting explains that German manufacturers running factories in America have had to train their employees. Said employees, the products of America’s educational system, lack the technical skills to run today’s automated factories.

Germany does not have this problem, because German high schools offer vocational and technical education that prepares children for the jobs that are on offer. America does not. Yet, does America have enough high school teachers who can do this work? How many high school teachers would be able to prepare students for the jobs that are available?

Wittig reports:

In Germany, half the graduates of high schools and junior high schools choose a track that combines training on the job with further education at a public vocational institution. This apprenticeship model is one reason why Germany has the lowest rate of youth unemployment in Europe and has been able to keep manufacturing jobs in the country.

And also,

As high-wage countries, Germany and the U.S. face similar challenges in protecting existing production facilities and creating new manufacturing jobs. One of the most decisive factors for companies is whether they can find skilled and motivated workers, which is what apprenticeship programs provide.

This means that not everyone goes to college. It means that a significant number of people do not really need a liberal arts education. One understands that many colleges offer engineering programs, but you do not need to have a degree in engineering to be an effective technician. Many people who could do good work as technicians would not be able to complete an engineering problem.

Worse yet, we have decided that education must be therapeutic. We want our children to have high self-esteem. We do not want them to learn to compete. We give everyone a trophy, regardless. And yet, as happens with sports teams, self-esteemist policies have no place on the factory floor.

And it is inefficient to hire people who will fulfill diversity quotas.  Surely, in training programs everyone should have a fair chance. And everyone should be judged by the same standard.

For some people the worst part about all of these jobs is that they are man jobs. True enough, women can do many of them, but the skills and aptitudes required seem more likely to belong to men. Those who imagine that robots will replace men and that the masculine ethos will fade into oblivion are discovering that someone has to design those robots, manufacture and run them. Women can do a lot of these jobs, but for the most part they do not want to do such jobs. Thus, the task befalls men.

College men tend to major in engineering while college women major in art history and psychology. What more do you need to know.

Wittig tells about a a South Carolina worker who is finishing her training with Siemans:

Maria Puckett was working at an auto body shop when a friend told her about an interesting option in her hometown of Spartanburg, S.C. The German car maker BMW was looking for apprentices. Maria, an energetic 25-year-old with a passion for technical work, applied for the job. She was hired and after two years is almost done with her apprenticeship. Her professional future looks bright, and she has no college debt.

A woman working in an auto body shop. Perfect. More power to her. And yet, a nation that wants everyone to receive a trophy and that wants men to get in touch with their feminine sides will soon have precious few men who even want to do the jobs. For now our educational system is not providing what industry needs. Thus, economic growth will remain sluggish, regardless of policy.


Sam L. said...

It's NOT due to Common Core. That's merely the latest of the dumbing down of education in the US, which has been going on for years.

James said...

It all started back with the "everyone should go to college" campaign. Which allowed them to teach whatever they wanted to to these kids with the taxpayer funding it. They did everything possible to make this a success for their plans. Doing everything necessary to standards to let anyone in, making sure it became an ideological unassailable environment for students (safe spaces) and employees (tenure and unionization), provide sinecures for leftists who couldn't make it anywhere else (administration), with political power (contributions, protests, union voting bloc). All of this as I said taxpayer funded, a pretty nifty trick.
There is no educational system in the US now unless you count political indoctrination as an educational system.
The leftists have been lucky in a sense with the rise of high tech to take a lot of these people into the work force, but now the production of people who can only do tech or politics is something that is starting to catch up on them. If you don't produce people who can make and fix traditional things (roads, buildings, sewage disposal, food production, mechanicing) then those things will decline to the point of failure. Their solution was to bring in cheap foreign labor for this, but that now has become untenable.
It all goes back to you can't beat arithmetics.
Which is very long winded way of saying Sam is right.

Sam L. said...

Thang ya, James; thang ya ver' muuuuch.

David Foster said...

The problem goes much deeper than the absence of a German-style apprenticeship program, or even of an old-fahioned American vocational educational system.

It is reasonable to expect that an employer would spend a few hours teaching a new employee how to use a micrometer. It is not reasonable to expect that employer to first teach the employee about decimals and fractions, which one needs to comprehend in order to use the micrometer. (Or for that matter, to use an ordinary ruler or tape measure.)

trigger warning said...

Mcdonalds uses pictures on their cash registers for a reason. The employees are frequently illiterate and innumerate. Pity they dont make $15-20/hr. They're certainly better educated than your average TSA officer.

David Foster said...

Here's an example of an apprenticeship program that sounds worthwhile:

Ares Olympus said...

It seems a confusion assertion, claiming our educational system is failing, and the definition of failing is there are many technical jobs available without qualified applicants to fill them.

In the olden days, before college required $100k debt, people didn't go to college to find a job. They went because they wanted to learn new things, and not necessarily things that make one be able to earn more money. But when you have to accumulate large debt for college, it would make sense that there will be less art history majors, and more students focused on the jobs that can earn more.2

And we can ask what the purpose of higher education really is. Is it just about credentials now? So some entry level jobs will get 500-1000 applications, in part because its easier for job searchers to flood companies with resumes, and employers have to find a filtering system, and the first pass they may remove all those without a college degree, even if the job itself doesn't require skills from a college degree. So if you don't have connections, and don't have a college degree, you may find yourself not even getting to the interview process.

But should we blame higher education for not producing enough engineers? Perhaps, and the same way perhaps we should blame them for producing to many lawyers or nurses, or where ever there are surpluses at the moment.

I almost imagine if the complaints of an industry isn't a shortage of workers, but a desire to import workers who are willing to work for less. But in any case, it does seem like technical work is difficult to educate since everything is changing so fast, and there are so many specialties, and so college programs are in a bind if we require that they produce graduates with the exact skills needed at a given moment.

One friend's daughter just graduated from college with a double Math/CSci major, and she apparently has found employers require job experience in a given field, and so she's not yet found the foot in the door.

Another friend's son just finished a PhD in Computer Science, and tried to get hired by Google, and they suggested he get some more experience and try again. So I guess google isn't that desperate anyway. And he told me about the problem of specialization, and whatever you do in grad school may have nothing to do with what you can find a job for.

So employers who need workers need to stop blaming the educational system, and
start training, at least beyond the most basic skills in a given field. And it makes sense that new employees who have a lot to learn can start with a relatively low salary while they get the training needed.

OTOH, I can see there's a problem. Young people are now told they will be changing jobs every 3-7 years, and employment for life no longer exists, so they feel no loyalty to employers, and employers seeing a high turn over in hirees will feel resistant to spending resources training inexperienced employees who see the job as a stepping stone to another job they really want.

Anyway, so I'll say "blame" can go in a lot of directions, and its not clear who or what can be done when we live in a world were technology is obsolete after 5 years. It's no wonder employers are frustrated, and if they really can get imported labor to do jobs that Americans can't, that might be some proof that its our educational system that is screwed up.

Yet, who can say why our universities attract students from all around the world, and who really want to stay here after graduation, if they can get their green cards.

James said...

Re: David's comment. I think it's telling we are going back to apprentice programs in the more technical fields. I don't think it's that farfetched you will see the reappearance of guilds. They'll be under different names, but that is what they'll be.

Deana said...

David - your comment is spot on. The type of educational system we have is only one small part of the problem. The larger issues are the culture and work ethic in our country. You can have all the apprentice programs you want but if the students are lazy, functionally illiterate, and dishonest, it still won't work.

True story: A couple of years ago, I was talking to an older man who worked at a golfing club. They had decided to hire two young teenagers to help with the cleaning and other odd jobs. They actually had to teach one of them how to use a broom. A BROOM!

These young people and frankly some older ones are not trainable. Everything must be done for them.

I simply don't know we go back to having a society where people are honest, hard working, and when they leave home at 18, are trainable.

Anonymous said...

But seriously, can people like this be educated?

You can offer the best teachers and materials, but they show no interest. They lack even the most basic decency.

An old woman is slammed to the ground, and they are all running and laughing.

David Foster said...

Apparently the UK government is coercing businesses into apprenticeship programs:

From the article, it doesn't sound like it's working out too well.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

The Glowing Box receives lots of attention, crowding out lots of other things in life.

David Foster said...

Ares..." its not clear who or what can be done when we live in a world were technology is obsolete after 5 years"

There are few fields...actually, I can't think of *any*, right off...where the core knowledge is obsolete after 5 years. What does happen in that employers often overspecify jobs, sometimes to a ridiculous level---see my post about hunting 5-pound butterflies:

David Foster said...

Jamie Dimon (J P Morgan) on the educational catastrophe:

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