Imagine your house on fire. The walls crumbling, smoke fills the hallways and it is becoming more difficult to escape. You see your landlord standing there with a phone and a fire extinguisher but he won’t let you use them. Instead, the home burns to the ground and the landlord kicks you out for not doing enough to save it. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it?
Economists and employers are reporting with all certainty that a major cause employment in our country and state is not improving is because of “structural unemployment” and an increasingly widening skill gap.
Economist Lakshman Achuthan says, “The issue is many workers looking for jobs lack the skills for the positions available. It’s a condition known as ‘structural unemployment’.”
With 14 million Americans out of work, it seems to me that cutting job training and education is like withholding the fire extinguisher. Our economy is in the toilet for several reasons and training and education could help resolve much of it.
When people are out of work they are not spending money, being taxed but are likely collecting entitlements. There is more crime, poor health and foreclosed mortgages. Unemployment effects us all immeasurably – even those who still bring home a paycheck.
Half of unemployed Americans have been so for more than 6 months. And nearly one third of those have been unemployed for over a year. It is obvious that the longer someone is without a job, the less employable they become. So not only do these workers have a lack of skills for which to enter into a new field, but their chances decrease with each passing day.
The top ten hardest to fill jobs are as follows: Skilled Trades, Sales Representatives, Engineers, Drivers, Accounting and Finance, IT Staff, Management/Executive, Teachers, Administrative and Machinists.
A McKinsey Global Institute survey recently discovered that of the 2000 firms studied, 40% had positions available for over 6 months simply due to not being able to find skilled or experienced employees. Companies used to provide extensive training but with vast turnover and lack of loyalty – they no longer find it is worth it. They want to hire someone who is ready to produce day one.
So we have quite a pickle. You need to have experience to get the job that will give you the experience. Training and education are less available and more expensive and, therefore, skills are stagnating. Yet, the expectations of employers are rising. Talk about being stuck in a mud pit.
So, go to school! Get your own dang training! Just move! Words of brilliant wisdom by those who think the world is shiny and pink and filled with marshmallows.
Imagine being 40 years old after working in a particular industry for the past 20 years. You have been displaced and there are no longer positions available in your field. You find yourself unprepared and inexperienced for the positions listed. You spend your time working part time or odd jobs to put food on the table for you modest family of 4. You are a month behind in your mortgage, the payments just doubled and a third of its equity has been lost. You look into the admissions process at Gateway Technical College and you find that you can no longer receive a minimal education for a few thousand anymore. One year would cost you, at minimum, $13,000. A grant may cover about $2000, but you have no idea how you could afford $11,000 a year, even with student loans if any were available. Moving to where there might be jobs feels next to impossible, too, because your home is now worth $30,000 less than you owe (after several foreclosures in your neighborhood). You feel stuck and defeated, caught in a cycle you want desperately to break.
It was recently announced that the Gateway – Unified Early College Program has been cut. This was a brand new opportunity which could have changed many futures. It was a collaborated effort by the college and the district to include college courses within the high school curriculum. It would allow students to gain credits and receive an associate’s degree at graduation. Being able to come out of high school with an employable skill set is priceless.
800 million in cuts to public schools and a 30 percent cut to technical schools – how are these the answer to any of our problems?
I have no doubt that spending has been out of control at every level of government. I understand the need for cuts. And sometimes when I read about certain art grants or obscure studies being funded with tax dollars – I see the outrageous lack of discipline.
However, when we know – WE KNOW – that training and education can systematically and gradually solve so many of society’s woes, it seems to me that virtually eliminating those solutions is not only neglecting the blaze, but also fanning the flames. And we are all going to get burned.