What you sow you eventually reap: So goes America’s workforce

Help Wanted! 

Unless you live in an extremely remote or depressed area in the United States you see these signs just about everywhere.  I see them all of the time here in Williamson County, Tennessee (more specifically Franklin, TN)  My wife and I were eating lunch today and we were talking about how hard it is for people to buy homes in this area and in our region.  We have also seen how challenging it is to buy a car in the US right now.  There is no end in sight for either of these issues, but the real root cause for both of them comes from seeds that were sown years ago by our education system.  Let me share more.

I turned 62 in June of this year so many of you will say I am old.  I feel great and my new hip (16 days old) will make me feel even younger.  I can think back to my high school days when we had active vocational and technical programs in our high schools.  I took an electricity & electronics class both my junior and senior years of high school and I could have gone more technical rather than getting a BS degree.

Things changed shortly after I graduated and it became less sexy in the eyes of decision makers to have students pursue these types of programs like mine and building trades, auto mechanics and shop class.  As a result of this strategic change there were fewer options for students who didn’t want to go to college and pursue either an associates or bachelors degree.  What also happened is that the pipeline dried up for students who wanted to become plumbers, carpenters, welders, electricians or related types of roles.  Fast forward to today and you see chronic shortages in the skilled trades as well as in workforce for the industrial market.  You may say the chip issue that is commonly used to slow auto production is not related, but I say that we have willingly given up the appetite to produce most things in the country so that workers have to settle for service or knowledge related work.  I am all for service and knowledge work, but we need a significant amount of our population producing things rather than providing services or ideas.

What is the answer?  First, when we make strategic changes in where we channel students we need to think of the repercussions not only in 1 or 5 years, but also for 10, 15 and 25 years.  We have missed out on at least 2 generations of workforce in the areas listed above and catching up will not take place overnight.  Another factor which will deter from catching up is the trend toward guaranteed minimum income and paying people more to stay at home than they should and could make in the workplace.  I realize that capitalism is not perfect, but  socializing labor markets will only bring down the best workers and reward those who are not interested in working hard in order to grow and improve.

I am interested in your thoughts?

Am I being too simple minded or does this make sense?

Services are important, but someone will always be needed to build the home, fix the plumbing or weld.