Business and Industry

Sometimes the 'Makers' Act Like 'Takers'

Could American businesses learn from foreign ones a lesson in self-reliance?

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When Mitt Romney made his infamous comments about the "47 percent" who "are dependent upon government" — who "believe the government has a responsibility to care for them" — he wasn't talking about the business community. Perhaps he should have been.

Listen to any group of business leaders for more than a minute and you'll get an earful about the crisis in "workforce development." America's economic performance, says the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, depends on "a workforce that possesses the skills and knowledge that employers need." Millions of people are looking for work, and millions of jobs are open for hire, but the former can't fill the latter "because of gaps in skills and training." There simply are not enough students "emerging from our public education system" with the necessary know-how.

That is why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants the federal government to streamline its "national employment and training system." Why it wants a public-education system that will "supply American businesses with the talent necessary to compete globally." It is why, according to a recent news story, the Virginia Chamber "wants the state (to) put more emphasis in public schools on preparing students for skills needed in science, technology and health care careers."

The state seems willing — even eager — to oblige. As Virginia Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe put it back in October: "We have to improve workforce training. To recruit 21st-century employers, Virginia needs to show that we have a workforce with both the soft skills businesses need and the specialized training 21st-century industries demand."

Nobody seems to be asking why the state should shoulder the burden — and the cost — of training workers to suit the needs of industry. Is that really the purpose of public education? Why doesn't industry train its own workers?

Yes, American business does a lot of workplace training — but clearly not enough, if it faces such an acute shortage of "human capital." Perhaps business in the U.S. could learn a thing or two from other countries.

The other day The Washington Post ran a story reporting how Siemens and other companies are importing the German apprenticeship model to the United States. The article profiled Hope Johnson, who decided to forgo college and instead take a four-year fellowship with Siemens — which is training her at a plant in Charlotte, N.C., and with which she expects to have a lifelong career. Siemens and several other companies have formed an apprenticing partnership with local community colleges. Students who are selected get free tuition, hourly wages — and, at the end of the apprenticeship, a guaranteed job.

Some of that is going on here in Virginia — with companies such as Areva, Babcock and Wilcox, and (yes) Siemens. Rolls-Royce recently kicked off an apprenticeship program at John Tyler Community College. Thanks to the space program at Wallops Island, students at Eastern Shore Community College are learning how to launch rockets.

"In Germany," the article noted, "it's not unusual for students to stop traditional high school at the equivalent of 10th grade and spend several years working and studying" toward a technical career. By contrast, "Among U.S. companies . . . managers expect job applicants to arrive with skills already perfected." Why is that?

The apprenticeship model has downsides. It asks people to choose a lifelong path while they're still teenagers. It also defines a narrow pathway: Companies underwriting apprenticeships choose the curriculum. "There used to be an elective among the 24 courses the students take," The Post notes about the Charlotte program. "That was replaced with a logic class. The companies balked at paying for 'the history of rock-and-roll,'?" according to the local program coordinator.

But that bug could also be a feature: Many students at traditional four-year colleges (and their parents) pay wildly inflated tuition that subsidizes such intellectual junk food — not to mention climbing walls, $90,000 dorm rooms, and gourmet dining halls. The students graduate with excruciating debt loads, but no jobs.

It's odd that the business community, which likes to think of itself as innovative and solution-oriented, is looking to the decades-old public education system to solve its worker-training problem. If there is such tremendous demand for technically literate employees, then why hasn't the business sector tried to meet it? Put together a consortium, raise some venture capital and launch a national STEM-H University with a branch campus in every state. Companies from Apple to Xerox should be delighted to hire the resulting product.

That would be the self-reliant, market-oriented thing to do. But if U.S. companies sit back and wait for government to "supply American businesses with the talent" they need, then aren't they — like Romney's 47 percent — simply demonstrating the belief that government has a responsibility to care for them?

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  1. It’s funny that it never seems to occur to people that the misallocation of scarce resources that comes with central planning also applies to education. This highlights why curricula and the subject matters that students devote their time to should be set by the marketplace and not the arbitrary whims of top men. For whatever reason, a majority of people find the latter to be preferable.

    1. $85 an hour! Seriously I don’t know why more people haven’t tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening?And whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids. Heres where I went,…
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  2. If there is such tremendous demand for technically literate employees, asks A. Barton Hinkle, why hasn’t the business sector tried to meet it?

    Perhaps because we have a massively expensive education system that is tasked with doing just that, and they see no reason to redo work that someone else is supposed to be doing?

    1. This. It’s work that someone else is supposed to be doing and that the business sector is stuck paying that someone else to do.

      1. I would ask where it is written that secondary education is supposed to provide technically literate employees rather than educated citizens.

        If you want the educational system oriented towards the former rather than the latter, that’s fine, but that isn’t it’s intended purpose, so if the business community thinks that it is, that’s their own fault.

        1. Excellent point. The education system should provide the basic literacy to make people trainable. The training should be up to the individual and the employer.

        2. I would ask where it is written that secondary education is supposed to provide technically literate employees rather than educated citizens.

          To some extent, the article suggests that the apprenticeship programs seem to be stuck even picking up the slack on the educated citizens part. They’re making the trainees take a logic class.

    2. That’s a poor excuse. If you need something done, do it yourself.

      1. The problem is the ed establishment owns the credentialing authority. So it would be hard to get good people I your program because you could only give them a job at your company not the credentials to ever leave. Our medieval credential driven education system needs to go.

        1. I would say if the business community is dumb enough to value a B.A. over trained and demonstrated experience and expertise, then it kinda has what’s coming to it. If I were a hiring manager at a Siemens competitor, I would consider the experience to be a more-than-able substitute for the credential.

          1. NK, I would say it is more that they are covering their ass over possible legal repercussions of hiring someone who isn’t officially credential’d. Most I know in industry value experience far more than academic credentials.

          2. They only value credentials because the cra effectively prevents them for giving objective skills tests. Get rid of the cra and businesses would stop caring about credentials and just give objective tests to applicants. I am constantly amazed at how self supporting liberal laws are. I the this case the cra supports the liberal education bureaucracy.

            1. Funny though how they retain the Civil Service Examinations for themselves.

          3. the business community expects a BA to mean something, that the individual holding hit has basic literacy skills and can be trained to whatever task. The credential has also become a tool for whittling down the field of applicants, which technology has changed from a local/regional thing with a small number of folks to a national grab bag numbering in the thousands.

          4. That works for non-entry level positions. When you’re discussing the mismatch between educations and job requirements, though, the entry level is the central part of the market under discussion.

          5. I have on more than one occasion in my career been told that I was unqualified for a position less technical than the one which I currently held/just recently held because I didn’t have a degree.

            The fact that I had been successfully been doing the job for years was irrelivant.

            In another instance I was hired as a contractor at what was then an ungodly bill rate ($50/hr + Per Diem back in the mid 90’s) to design and develop a Test Automation Package.

            The company however did not consider me qualified for the much easier $75k per year FTE job of maintaining the system that I designed and built, all because I did not have a degree.

      2. If I’ve paid for somebody else to do something, I shouldn’t have to pay for it myself.

        12 years of mandatory schooling should do a hell of a lot more than basic literacy. Hell, you can get that in a couple-three years of grade school.

        Once that’s out of the way, what the hell should they be taught, and why shouldn’t it include some technical competencies?

        1. I shouldn’t have to pay for do it myself.

        2. As I said, you didn’t pay the school to provide technical literacy. See John’s point above about trainable versus trained.

      3. “Just like my grandmother always said, if you want a box hurled into the sun, you’ve got to do it yourself! God rest her zombie bones.”

        Beat Episiarch to the relevant Futurama quote.

    3. And because the problem with education starts at the beginning (thought that up myself!). They’re getting people who cannot comprehend any text more complicated than a stop sign. Does Mr. Hinkle expect businesses to begin some kind of education program at the kindergarten level?

  3. …Hope Johnson, who decided to forgo college and instead take a four-year fellowship with Siemens ? which is training her at a plant in Charlotte, N.C., and with which she expects to have a lifelong career.

    If I was higher education I would have her arrested for truancy. No one should be allowed to deviate from academia for the sake of saving a few dollars, which Obama is subsidizing anyway so it’s all good.

  4. But I thought the GOP fixed this problem with No Child Left Behind?

    1. That’s a great rebuttal to an argument that no one made! Congratulations! The straw man is dead!

    2. BUSHPIGS!!11!!!!CHRISTFAGS!!111!!!!

    3. Oh, you mean McCain-Kennedy? Yeah, that’s real market-prompted solutions right there!

      1. You know, when you shout with outrage at it, it is thrilled, because it thinks it’s finally having a conversation; the wall is finally screaming back!

        1. “Shut up, ya filthy crab!”

      2. It is sarcasm of course, because conservatism fixes nothing. The failures of 2001-2009 are legion. It worth noting that Democrats are not much better.

        1. another straw man defeated given the legion of GOP supporters here.

        2. Onion Straws

          1 large onion (yellow, white, or red)
          2 parts flour
          1 part starch (corn, potato, or rice)
          Garlic powder (to taste)
          Salt & Pepper (to taste)

          Trim and peel onion. Using mandolin slicer set to 1/8″, slice onion. Break up onion rings and place into gallon plastic bag with dry ingredients; shake well to coat onion. Fry in deep-fryer at 375 degrees until golden brown. Serve with steak, swordfish, on a burger, etc…

        3. It worth noting that Democrats are not much better.

          If conservatism has no answers and progressivism has little to no answers, what school of thought does? Where in the market of ideas do we find the most solutions to society’s various problems?

          1. Markets.

            Yes, I know certain others purport to support markets but fail to when they are in power. Pro football is a market, for instance. But good luck participating without an invite from the NFL.

            Everyone here knows this.

            1. I know certain others purport to support markets but fail to when they are support those in power.

              Yes, you do.

            2. Markets.

              Says the guy who thinks freedom of association is immoral.

    4. Race to the top!

    5. Seriously though, one of my coworkers has a son who’s got Down syndrome. He was held back two grades, and now he keeps passing every grade. So what if he can’t understand what he’s being taught? He’s not being left behind.

      1. Results don’t matter.

    6. Cuban Chicken

      Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (as many as you want to serve)
      Buttermilk (enough to cover chicken)
      Cumin (to taste, I like a lot of it)
      Juice of 1 lime
      Breading of your choice

      Mix together buttermilk, cumin, and lime juice. Pound breasts to a uniform thickness, marinate overnight in buttermilk/cumin/lime mixture. On the following day, bread breasts and fry in skillet in about 1/2″ of oil.
      Serve and enjoy; I like mine paired with fried tomatoes and yellow rice but YMMV.

      1. Do you have an oil recommendation?

        1. I prefer peanut but here in NYC it is rather hard to find at a reasonable price; rapeseed oil works nicely as well.

          1. rapeseed oil works nicely as well

            ONLY OIL STEVE SMITH USES!

        1. I prefer to use that on steak but that’s purely subjective.

          1. Roast pork with mojo. Mmmmm. But no fake stuff in bottles. The real thing, with sour oranges.

    7. You mean that Bush program that pretty much no one on the right every really supported because they were pushing for an abolition of the Dept of Education instead?

    8. Palin’s Buttplug:

      But I thought the GOP fixed this problem with No Child Left Behind?

      Actually, public education in general was supposed to fix this problem, about 175 years ago.

      Hey, No Child Left Behind != status quo, right? So that meant it had to be adopted. Progressives tell us so.

      You’re not allowed to trash talk progressive ideas until you have a great solution yourself.

  5. Talk to anyone who has taught poor children and they will tell you public education of these kids is often a waste of time. If your mom is I drugs and you have no known father, going to school is actually down of the list of problems. We spend al of this money on public education that actually does little good to the most poor and troubled kids.

  6. “Nobody seems to be asking why the state should shoulder the burden ? and the cost ? of training workers to suit the needs of industry.”

    Uuuh. Maybe it’s because they need some tax payers to fund the social justice utopia ?

    1. Perhaps because workers who are trained benefit themselves just as much as their employers?

      Why not phrase the question “Nobody seems to be asking why mandatory state education shouldn’t transmit usable skills that will benefit the students.”

      1. No one asks that because the education establishment views it’s purpose as benefiting teachers and administrators not students. They don’t say that. But that is how they think.

      2. Better yet, why not phrase the question “Nobody seems to be asking why mandatory state education exists.”

  7. They are lying. Well that’s probably an overstatement as they probably don’t realize how wrong they are. They are however quite wrong, there is no skills gap.

    Rather what has happened is as the costs over and above salary of employing someone has risen and the risks that a hire will result in a huge loss via lawsuit or intrusive government oversight via the ADA or some similar law employers are now very leery of hiring anyone, so leery that in most companies the hiring process is about finding any reason to exclude a candidate and then excluding them. Gone are the days when a hiring manager would look at someone who was a 75% match of what he was looking for and hiring that person with the expectation that they’d learn the other 25% as he went along. Also gone are the idea of hiring someone cheaply and training them on the job.

    So now hiring is managed by professional HR experts who really have no clue what it is they are hiring someone to do or what kinds of person would be good at that task and they just compare resumes to a list of dream requirements that someone (who may or may not have known more about the job) defined at some point in the past and then they reject everyone who isn’t a perfect match. Then the company complains that there is a shortage of skilled workers.

  8. my degree program allowed me to take an elective and I chose a logic class. History of rock & roll would have been cool though. i can jam to those old tunes.

  9. Good artice overall

  10. I watched part of a hearing on transportation funding in which a douchebag executive of ADM wanted more rate setting regulation. A cocksucker executive of the Indiana Railroad made his opinions against regulation known, but then called for more rent seeking subsidies and tax deals. I just want to leave some Google cookies here that they might find, so I can say fuck them both.

  11. Google is paying 75$/hour! Just work for few hours & spend more time with friends and family. On Sunday I bought themselves a Alfa Romeo from having made $5637 this month. its the best-job Ive ever had.It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it out http://www.Buzz95.com

  12. Maybe I’m loopy but why should modern business act any different than a crackhead living off the state? If the state subsidizes this and that hither and yon then creatures of various function and size will naturally participate if they have enough common sense and intelligence to exploit a resource.

    Perhaps it is less about people and organizations exploiting systems and more about systems willing to be exploited.

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