Just about every week, there are news stories about businesses that–despite the high unemployment rate–can’t find people to hire with the needed skills…these skills often being of a pretty basic nature. For example, the WSJ mentions an alarm-installation company that currently has two unfilled job openings—for fire-alarm and burglar-alarm technician–that have been open for nearly 18 months. The firm’s head says that he has provided about 10 prospective hires with a low-level alarm manual and asked them to come back and show they could operate the alarm panel. “None have come back,” he says.
Note that he’s not testing for people who can understand a circuit diagram or diagnose a complex failure condition, just for people who can read a detailed document and take appropriate actions based on what it says.
North American Tool Corporation has two openings in northwest Illinois. But…”I’ll write a few numbers down, mostly numbers with decimal points, because that’s what we use in manufacturing, and have them add them or subtract them, or divide by two,” says North American’s Jim Hoyt. He finds that applicants often can’t do this simple math.
Journalists and academics often blame the missing-skills problem on what they claim to be the higher skill levels required by today’s technology, but I think this aspect of the situation is overstated. I doubt that a present-day manual for an alarm system is really a more complex document than, say, a maintenance manual for a piston-powered airliner circa 1950. And while a modern CNC machine tool does require (at least) a knowledge of decimal arithmetic to program or probably even to set up, a true machinist on traditional equipment also needed this knowledge. It is possible that the average mix of verbal and mathematical literacy requirements for jobs has shifted somewhat upwards as a result of advancing technology and increased management focus on worker involvement, but I think the main problem is not that the skill requirements have become dramatically higher but rather the skill levels of the prospective workers coming out of the schools have gotten lower.
Meanwhile, New York City lost another round in the legal battle to overhaul 24 low-performing schools. State Supreme Court Judge Joan Lobis upheld an arbitrator’s ruling that the city lacks the authority to remove roughly 3,600 teachers, administrators and other staff from the schools and to require them to reapply for their jobs without benefit of seniority preferences.
What is President Barack Obama doing about the ongoing disaster that is so much of the American public education system? Well, he is creating an African-American Education Office.
Yeah, that’ll do it. More bureaucracy, more racial balkanization.
The Obama administration also wants to apply a racial and ethnic “disparate impact” test to school discipline policies..something that would surely lead inevitably to race-and-ethnicity-based quota systems for disciplinary actions. Depending on your race or ethnicity, the identical action would get you suspended or get you a warning letter…see this article. Such a policy would surely make it even more difficult than it already is for schools to maintain an environment in which any kind of learning at all can take place.
If Obama had really cared about improving education and job skills..for African-Americans and for others…he would have used his leadership position and oratorical ability to help crush what has been called “the blob”…the aggregate of narrowly-selfish teachers’ unions, dysfunctional school bureaucracies, incompetent and unaccountable administrators, useless ed schools driving pointless credentialing requirements. But of course he really has neither the interest nor the executive ability to spearhead and drive such an initiative. His interest is in using the schools as a sandbox for his ideology and a spoils system for the accumulation of power.
(School discipline links via Joanne Jacobs)