The Education Gap brought about in part…by Education

From the MRW Water Cooler

Q: Mike, over the years I have spent time working with young people that are excited about working in one trade or another, until their parents “put out the fire” and announce “oh no, you are going to college”. Although I agree that one should try to continue their education, many students would benefit by first obtaining an associate degree in a technical subject they love.

 Is there anything being planned by mrW to send this message to the parents? To have you Mike, for example, record a PSA about this country’s growing issue of skilled labor shortages. Do we really want to depend on imported skilled labor to rebuild our country’s infrastructure? – BM

Hi Bob,

I agree. I’d even go so far as to say that an Associate Degree in anything – technical or otherwise – should almost always precede a B.S. or a B.A.

Most 18 year olds don’t really know what they want to do. (How could they?) Does it really make sense to ask them to “declare” a major at that point in their life, and start down a road that that might be very hard to get off of? Most grown-ups I know that are unhappy with their jobs today are doing something that was put in motion by a decision they made when they were too young to order a beer. And most kids I know drowning in student debt, are now so disillusioned they’re not even sure that the degree that they (or their parents) are going to be paying off for the next 10 years even reflects the career they thought they wanted. Madness. Community Colleges and Technical Schools give you time to figure things out at a more affordable cost. I can’t imagine where I would have landed without one.

Not surprisingly, one of the biggest opponents to Community Colleges is sometimes the educational system itself. In places where options are slim, like Idaho for instance, large universities often thwart initiatives to build Technical Schools and Community Colleges because they want high school graduates to be faced with as few choices as possible. (Less competition among high school graduates is good for them.) Consequently, a lot of four year schools are full of students who would be better served by a two year school. And worse, a lot of high school graduates with no other educational option, simply stop. Right now in Idaho, 61% of all high school grads go no further in their studies. Idaho is facing an “education gap,” brought about in part…by education.

Same thing happens with organized labor. All unions – public and private – are fundamentally tasked with negotiating on behalf of the worker. Consider: as a union boss, is my leverage improved by a surplus of skilled workers in the market place? Of course not, I can get a better deal for my members if there is a global shortage of people with the necessary skills. And so, it’s not surprising to find unions absent from the conversation about closing the skills gap.

When it comes to education and labor, the laws of supply not demand are no different than they are elsewhere.
The message is easy to deliver and cheap to shoot. I’ve recorded a few already. The trick is paying for it and getting it to the masses. My hope is to get a number of companies to subsidize a broadcast campaign that speaks to the issue. It’s a big ask. — Mike

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