Sunday, June 12, 2011

About This "Education" Thing; Bucyrus, MATC, MPS, and the Kids

Last week a very short item appeared condensing Tim Sullivan's speech to a graf or two. It wasn't really an adequate synopsis.

In this article we get more of the picture.

A delegation of senior Texas government authorities met Sullivan...[and] they asked Sullivan exactly what sort of workers he needed. Sullivan said 80 with specific skill. The state gave Sullivan a guarantee that the workers would be waiting when the doors opened at the expansion site in Kilgore. State officials customized a recruitment, training and certification program. One year later, when the expansion site in Kilgore opened its doors, the 80 welders were waiting.

There's a bit more to it than just that; Texas also handed over a turnkey plant (cost, if any, was not mentioned in the article). And we all know that Texas' taxes are.........less. MUCH less.

So we pay a lot more in taxes, and a lot more for "education" than does Texas. Yes, that's ironic:

At issue is a chronic mismatch of skills - a topic that metro Milwaukee leaders have debated loudly for years without making meaningful progress, Sullivan said. Even with employment estimated above 10% in the city, industrial employers such as Bucyrus are unable to fill jobs.

What pained Sullivan most, the CEO said, was that the Milwaukee Area Technical College also said it would customize a welder training program for Bucyrus. But MATC never gave a guarantee as Texas did, Sullivan said. Nor did MATC deliver. Some didn't finish training. Others were certified but failed a drug test.

Oh, that's not all, folks!

Although taxpayer-funded MATC probably is the institution best suited to address the skills mismatch, the tech school cannot bear all the blame for its inability to deliver customized workforce training, Sullivan said.

Many Milwaukee-trained welders simply are not mentally prepared by metro Milwaukee's grade schools and high schools, Sullivan said.

About 50,000 working-age residents in the city of Milwaukee cannot read beyond the third grade, Sullivan told M-7. In Wisconsin, meanwhile, some 710,000 working-age people did not finish high school.

According to federal data cited by the M-7, 32% of manufacturers nationally report unfilled jobs because they cannot find qualified workers.

That's not the first time I've heard the complaint about fundamental skills (math, reading)--and when employers are seeking people who understand plane/solid geometry, algebra, and trig, the numbers of 'good' candidates evanesces to almost zero. Sullivan should consider himself lucky in some regards.

What to do?

...Sullivan wants Gov. Scott Walker to change how the state spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year in federal job training funds - and in the process, link the funds to reforms of local education programs. The proposals would change how workforce investment boards - regional training entities - apply for funds. They would need to justify each allocation with commitments to reform the curricula of each region's kindergarten-through-12th public schools as well as each region's technical colleges.

Well, that should be easy! /sarcasm.

Let's cut to the chase. Grade- and high-school education just plain sucks in this area. (There are a few exceptions, of course.) We have social promotions. We have "feel-good" crap instead of discipline in the classrooms---largely because of the utterly balls-less lawyer-bound school administrations who WILL NOT allow teachers to do what is necessary. We have black English, hispanic-English, and 'burbs English (also a noticeable variant from standard). None of them are worth spit in any form of commerce, at any level, except in drug-deals, perhaps.

I'll bet you that 90% of the darlings in 3rd grade were NOT made to memorize the multiplication tables, and the same percentage cannot parse a sentence in 8th grade. We KNOW that a noticeable percentage of "college" kids cannot locate States (nor entire countries) on a map, and most of them can't distinguish a Governor's responsibilities from those of an alderman.

On the other side of the table.....

Sullivan notes that Bucyrus has been adding jobs for several years and intends to continue for the next 2-3 years, anyway. But what does Sullivan/Bucyrus--and for that matter, P&H, Kohler, Rex, Rockwell, JCI, et al (the "industrial community") offer these folks when welding is no longer the Big Deal? Can someone with 7-10 years' experience in welding at Bucyrus flip over to Johnson Controls when mining shovel orders drop dead as they surely will? If not JCI, to Roundy's? JICase? A bio-fuels company? Packaging?

In other words, it's nice that you offer $18.00/hour plus bennies and annual increases, yadayada. What's that welder gonna do when orders drop off and he's dropped into unemployment at age 40? 50? Hmmmmmm? Become a bio-fuels chemist?

It would be very nice if the Big Biz folks would figure out the answers to those questions while MPS and MATC re-organize their modus operandi. It'll probably take just as long.

1 comment:

Deekaman said...

Kilgore. Home of the Rangerettes. It is a relatively small West Texas community badly in need of jobs. Hard working folks who have little to show for it. But they understand what it is to WORK. Milwaukee? Many not so much.