Thursday, June 23, 2011

Boosting A Skilled Blue-Collared Workforce: Where are the jobs?

President Obama announced a new initiative aimed at increasing community college preparation of skilled blue-collar workers. According to the Wall Street Journal, the President is joined by the chief executive of Motorola Solutions, Inc., a co-founder of Groupon Inc., and the chairman of Accenture PLC (ACN) to help get community-college students into manufacturing jobs. No federal funding is attached to this initiative.

While driving this week, I bumped into the Diane Rehm show with a discussion on education efforts by The Manufacturing Institute, which is an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers that hosts 12,000 manufacturing members. The institute is partnering with community colleges all across the country to take industry-recognized, nationally portable manufacturing skills credentials right into the degree programs in community colleges. Rehm interviews those involved who describe certificate programs that community college students can follow that ensure they have the skills for the manufacturing-oriented jobs that are required in their area.

You can also listen to the show here.

Read the transcript here.

Interesting comments on the show can be found here.

I was left with questions:

1) What happened to vocational education in U.S. high schools?
2) Is this a sign that manufacturers may bring back jobs that they shipped overseas?
3) With the large pool of unemployed workers, is it geography that keeps the existing talent pool remote from where the jobs are now?
4) With a reported 11% of returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan unemployed, is this not a skilled workforce to fill the manufacturing jobs? Where are these jobs?
5) With recent college grads saddled with student debt and unable to get a part time job as a dishwasher, is this not a skilled workforce? Where are these jobs?
6) With the deep layoffs from the Space Program, no doubt about it a highly skilled workforce with applicable skills, these workers are now thrown into unemployment? Where are the jobs?

While plans speed along with this community college initiative to prepare new workers for vague future opportunities to avert a workforce "crisis", are we saying that the current skilled workforce is a lost generation? I am unconvinced that high school grads and their families today should have any confidence that supports getting saddled with more student loan and debt on preparation for jobs that cannot be identified. Sorry, I don't buy this "crisis" story line. Where are all these manufacturing jobs that are going unfilled?

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