Lack of Skilled Workers Threatens Recovery

Welcome Instapundit fans. While I normally write about golf, as you can see on the main pages, the GolfBlogger 19th Hole is my outlet for other writing. Before becoming a public school teacher, I worked for The Heritage Foundation, so my leanings are definitely conservative … 

The post you want to see is below:

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From a recent Yahoo Finance article:

Workers with specialized skills like electricians, carpenters and welders are in critically short supply in many large economies, a shortfall that marks another obstacle to the global economic recovery, a research paper by Manpower Inc (NYSE:MAN – News) concludes.

“It becomes a real choke-point in future economic growth,” Manpower Chief Executive Jeff Joerres said. “We believe strongly this is really an issue in the labor market.”

As a public school teacher, I’ve been saying for some time that the entire “No Child Left Behind – Every Kid Has To Go To College” mentality would have just this sort of negative, and unintended consequence. Public High school used to have big shop departments—woodshop, auto repair, plumbing, welding, etc. Now, the government’s emphasis on high-stakes academic tests in measuring school quality has resulted in reduction or elimination of non-academic classes. Students are being told that college is their only hope.

It all makes sense from the school’s point of view. Schools need students to buy into the college mentality so they will concentrate on the sort of knowledge and skills that will help them score well on standardized academic tests (in Michigan, that’s the ACT for high school students). Students scores on standardized tests determine whether a school is deemed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) or is failing. Failing schools suffer a number of sanctions, none of which are pleasant for administrators or teachers.

College prep classes help schools meet AYP and avoid sanctions. Shop classes do not. So the shop classes have to go.

You really can’t blame the schools, though. The Federal Government has set the rules and public schools are simply playing the game. This is just another example of the failure of top down government.

Rather than having the federal government dictate children’s futures, parents and students should have a wide variety of educational avenues available. The truth is that not every kid is meant to go to college, and not every kid should. The trades are honorable, worthwhile, and profitable. Trades require intelligence, hard work and professionalism. As a society, we need tradesmen.

And frankly, tradesmen make more than most college-educated public school teachers. smile

15 Responses to “Lack of Skilled Workers Threatens Recovery”

  1. J on

    Here in a small town in MA, we did over our high school.  The money was ALL spent on the math and science departments (they actually slashed the english dept.).  When I interviewed the panel pushing for these renovations they replied that if the student was not planning on majoring in either science or math and going on to college…..they could go somewhere (where?)else to get their high school education.  And this was a public high school!

    Reply
  2. Kirsten on

    Related point—did you happen to catch the recent headlines about how “kids today” lack DIY skills? I wonder if that has anything to do with schools dropping shop . . .

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  3. Dotty Clark on

    You obviously know a lot about Career and Technical Education and are a big supporter of it.  I have taught marketing and sponsored DECA for years here in NM.  Electives teachers are struggling because so many academic credits are now required for graduation.  And, they keep increasing them.

    One other result of raising academic standards such as requiring all students to take Algebra II to graduate is an increase in the dropout rate.  Students should have a choice between a business or consumer math class in place of any math above geometry. More than 85% of my students in my marketing classes cannot count back change. Yet, they are simultaneously enrolled in Algebra II. 

    The only thing we are accomplishing by requiring algebra II to graduate is to protect the college bound—as if those students don’t know that they need Algebra II to get into college. 

    I can only assume that Math Teachers are ignoring their college bound students as they aimlessly attempt to help students (that will never need Algebra II for the rest of their lives) to pass the tests that hold schools accountable.  How can anybody wonder why the dropout rate is so high?

    By the way, I tell my students that there are born salespeople out there, without a college degree, making way more money than me.

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  4. Kate on

    This is so true. My husband is a plumber and he’s always in demand. And with his special licenses in backflow testing and repair, and water distribution, he gets lots of job offers. There are niche markets in the plumbing profession now because of strict environmental regulation, especially with the government and definitely in California. Last year he made 6 figures. He is NOT a union man.

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  5. Instapundit reader on

    I don’t know.  I think this is all backwards, some how.  The people with electrical skills that I’ve known have been really smart people.  Why shouldn’t the trades be taught in college?  In addition to having a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, why not have a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Operations, or in Plumbing Operations?

    Classroom debates about Locke and Rousseau would be much improved with the participation of people who can tackle real world problems.

    I actually find the statement “The trades are honorable, worthwhile, and profitable.” condescending and repulsive.

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  6. Bo on

    Not only are trades honorable and profitable, they have great job security in the increasingly global “knowledge” economy in which we live.  Your computer programming job can(and will) be outsourced to India where a talented PHD will do it for less money, but the plumber still has to show up at your house to fix the leak.

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  7. The Golfblogger on

    I mentioned honorable et.al. Only because too many of my colleagues and administrators don’t see it that way. They’re college snobs and I wanted to separate myself from them. I can see where it comes off as condescending but believe me that was not my intent. Apologies.

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  8. hM on

    “Students scores on standardized tests determine whether a school is deemed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) or is failing. Failing schools suffer a number of sanctions, none of which are pleasant for administrators or teachers…

    The Federal Government has set the rules and public schools are simply playing the game. This is just another example of the failure of top down government.”

    And just one more reason the federal government needs to take its hands off the education system, which was meant to be completely administered and funded by the states anyway. But that means the schools also need to trim the fat from their budgets, get rid of the excess administration and bureaucrats, and actually refuse federal money. If states can ween their schools from the government teat I’m willing to bet we’d end up with much better schools and a much weaker federal influence in all our lives.

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  9. Buck O'Fama on

    My wife is a public HS teacher who has complaining about NCLB for the same reasons.  Some kids (maybe lots of kids) just aren’t college material – not intellectually or emotionally up to it, don’t care about academics, would rather be doing something else, etc.  Why force them into the college box where they will either drop out without a degree or else graduate with a useless degree (Gender Studies, anyone?) and thousands of dollars of debt?  Instead, why not help each student try to find out what THEY are good at and can be successful at?  Ironically, we do not take the NCLB approach in school sports.  We do not believe the 98lb kid with the glasses is going to become a star running back if we only put him in a No Skinny Kid Left Out Of Football program.  Why do it with the academic side?

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  10. Anthony on

    Here in California, schools were getting rid of shop classes long before No Child Left Behind was a gleam in Ted Kennedy’s eye.  NCLB may be one more reason shop class won’t come back, but it’s not the reason shop class went away.

    Incidentally, anyone who can’t count back change shouldn’t have passed out of 4th grade, much less gotten into Algebra 2.

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  11. JKB on

    This problem started 35 yrs ago.  When I started high school, they had just opened a vocational school 15 miles away.  They closed all the shops at the high school.  But, as I tried, you couldn’t take the college prep level classes and spend the half day at the vocational school.  So at the ripe old age of 14 you had to decide your future.  I’m sure it was the brilliant idea of some idiot with an education PhD.  Even then the kids on the vocational track were considered less, shall we say, competitive.  I’m sure more idiots with education degrees have messed things up in the last 30 years.

    A few months ago, I found Mind and hand : manual training, the chief factor in education (1900) by Charles Hamm in the Internet archive.  Written 124 years ago, he discusses this very problem of the bias against artisans and skilled labor as he promotes an educational system that included training in real world manual skills.  Probably where shop class in high school originated.  Although, his premise isn’t to create skilled workers but rather to give students a grounding in the real world to avoid the flights of fancy we see from so many of the college educated today. 

    http://www.archive.org/details/mindandhandmanu00hamgoog

    Reply
  12. Tired `O Funemployment on

    “Workers with specialized skills like electricians, carpenters and welders are in critically short supply in many large economies, a shortfall that marks another obstacle to the global economic recovery, a research paper by Manpower Inc (NYSE:MAN – News) concludes.”

    Yes, while I will agree that we do have a lack of trade skills being taught in highschools. At this particular moment I find this article less than engaging due to the fact that the recession has hit the trades extremely hard. There are so many skilled/experienced tradespeople that have totally been screwed over and not able to find work because their entire industry took a major hit and they lack the skills (the other ones) to move into something else that might pay them a living wage. And often long term blue collar experience is not looked upon favorably even though there’s a decent sheepskin on the job app.

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  13. Tom in GA on

    From a different perspective, I teach math at a two-year college in Georgia.  All of our full time faculty fulfills half of their teaching load with remedial classes.  A majority of these students are fresh out of high school and cannot do even basic algebra, even though they’ve spend the last four years of high school “learning” it.

    It used to be that a student who wanted to learn a trade could do that in high school and then if they wanted to change to a college-oriented career program later in life they came to the community college and learned what they didn’t get exposed to in high school.  They left high school with an employable skill but their future could still be changed.  Those same students are now routed into college-prep, end up graduating without really learning the academic and never exposed to a trade career, and still end up at the community college in the same classes.  If they don’t succeed with us, they leave 14-15 years of education without any real employment opportunities.  How is the progress?

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  14. The Original Golf Blogger on

    Tom, you’re absolutely right. In trying to elevate everyone to college material, we’re leaving huge numbers behind. 

    We should empower parents and students to structure a high school curriculum that best fits their student’s needs and interests. One size does NOT fit all.

    Reply

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