Every Worker Needs the Right Skills
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Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame generated buzz with an open letter to Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He worries that the country faces a problem with how we view jobs that require us to use our hands, our muscle, and yes, to get dirty. He writes:
In each case, I shared my theory that most of these “problems” were in fact symptoms of something more fundamental – a change in the way Americans viewed hard work and skilled labor. That’s the essence of what I’ve heard from the hundreds of men and women I’ve worked with on Dirty Jobs. Pig farmers, electricians, plumbers, bridge painters, jam makers, blacksmiths, brewers, coal miners, carpenters, crab fisherman, oil drillers…they all tell me the same thing over and over, again and again – our country has become emotionally disconnected from an essential part of our workforce. We are no longer impressed with cheap electricity, paved roads, and indoor plumbing. We take our infrastructure for granted, and the people who build it.
Today, we can see the consequences of this disconnect in any number of areas, but none is more obvious than the growing skills gap. Even as unemployment remains sky high, a whole category of vital occupations has fallen out of favor, and companies struggle to find workers with the necessary skills. The causes seem clear. We have embraced a ridiculously narrow view of education. Any kind of training or study that does not come with a four-year degree is now deemed “alternative.” Many viable careers once aspired to are now seen as “vocational consolation prizes,”…
The policy angle here is that while workers earning four-year degrees are important in building America’s human capital, for many that may not be the best educational path and might be overkill when shorter-length technical degrees, apprenticeships, or certificates from a diverse set of institutions could be more effective for getting the right skills that employers need.
At a recent National Chamber Foundation event on manufacturing, industry experts discussed the need for more skilled manufacturing workers to maintain America’s global competitiveness.
And on September 20, the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce will discuss shrinking the skills gap at the HELP WANTED conference featuring Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell, former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, Overstock.com’s CEO Patrick Byrne, and Boeing Senior Vice President Rick Stephens.