‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’
A couple of years ago a Nevada manufacturing company wanted to expand its operations by purchasing new equipment from a Connecticut company … but was forced to buy the whole company when it realized there weren’t enough skilled laborers in the Southwest to run the machines.
This type of story has been told and retold over the past few years, and the situation is only getting worse.
Even now, as millions of Americans search for work among entry-level service jobs, and even tougher competition for positions deemed as desirable, this country is awash in unfilled openings for skilled trades workers who simply cannot be found.
Forces such as an aging skilled trades workforce, coupled with decades of youth having been advised not to expect any manufacturing jobs to exist in the future, have created a serious deficit. Even Michigan’s own Precision Edge surgical implement manufacturer was forced to look outside of its Upper Peninsula home base when considering its expansion in recent years. One of the main reasons it opened a location in Boyne City was due to the area’s efforts to prepare high school students with the skills necessary to go from graduation to some form of skilled trade work.
Even more, though, there are huge deficits in the workforce in the areas of information technology, truck driving, bookkeeping, sales and auto mechanics.
A 2011 survey found 52 percent of American businesses were having difficulty finding enough employees. That same year, Siemens Corporation had 3,000 openings all over the country that it simply could not fill.
Even at the height of the most recent recession there were nearly a quarter-million manufacturing jobs in need of workers.
So, why am I telling you all this? After all, having too many jobs seems like a good problem to have.
Well, for one, unfulfilled labor demand reduces the country’s overall productivity. And, if you are one of those GDP groupies, then you know our ability to create, pay those who created it and spend the money they earned from creating, directly affects our overall economic strength and consumer confidence … which begets further investment, retail spending and so on.
I mention all this because you, as a Charlevoix County voter, will soon have an opportunity to directly affect the lives and fortunes of untold thousands of area youth who—for numerous reasons—won’t be attending college.
Their options, then, are to either duke it out for a no-benefit, low-paying, entry-level job somewhere and hope, with enough hard work, to someday be moved up to assistant to the traveling lackey, or head cart-pusher; or, to take advantage of the long-standing programs offered by the Charlevoix-Emmet Intermediate School District and its partners that offer local kids real-world training that can have them career-ready by the time they graduate high school.
College is great for some people. But, for many, it isn’t the right path … and it isn’t cheap.
What else isn’t cheap is paying to subsidize people who—because they simply lacked any type of training—end up in need of help buying food, paying utilities and covering their rent.
With initiatives like the ISD’s Career and Technical Education programs, students from elementary-age on through the high school years are given a holistic opportunity to learn about the different types of careers available.
Additionally, middle-schoolers get to explore these different jobs, giving them the chance to decide what type of work they might like to do in the future.
The ISD’s Career and Technical Education millage also supports high-schoolers with post secondary certificates and degrees, work experience, occupational training, career counseling and numerous other activities involving business and education.
I’m not going to tell you your share of this program is insignificant because every dollar that comes out of your paycheck matters. However, I would urge you to consider supporting something that does real good, right now for the economy right here in Northern Michigan.
The renewal is for .75 mills—which translates into $75 per year for every $100,000 in your home’s taxable value.
And, frankly, the investment we make in today’s youth will follow them as they go on to start families, buy homes, pay taxes and even start their own businesses.
On Tuesday May 6 we will all have the choice to give our kids a hand up now … or give them a handout later.