Friday, March 4, 2016

Bring Back Skilled Trades

Tried to find a plumber lately? An electrician?  How about a carpenter or a mason?  Forget wanting one who's affordable; they're so scarce these days you can't get one for any amount of money.

PZ Myers:

You know, I’m a professor at four-year liberal arts college, and I think Mike Rowe is on to something here. The kind of education we deliver is not for every one.

Now, eight years later, unemployment is down, interest rates are under control, and inflation is in check. But the overall labor participation rate is very low, and the skills gap is wider than ever. In fact, the latest numbers are out, and they are astonishing. According to the Department of Labor, America now has 5.6 million job openings.
Forget your politics for a moment, and consider the enormity of what’s happening here. Millions of people who have stopped looking for work, are ignoring 5.6 million genuine opportunities. That’s not a polemic, or a judgment, or an opinion. It’s a fact. And so is this: most of those 5.6 million opportunities don’t require a diploma – they require require a skill.
Unfortunately, the skilled trades are no longer aspirational in these United States. In a society that’s convinced a four-year degree is the best path for the most people, a whole category of good jobs have been relegated to some sort of “vocational consolation prize.” Is it any wonder we have 1.3 trillion dollars in outstanding student loans? Is it really a surprise that vocational education has pretty much evaporated from high schools? Obviously, the number of available jobs and the number of unemployed people are not nearly as correlated as most people assume.
I’m no economist, but the skills gap doesn’t seem all that mysterious – it seems like a reflection of what we value. Five and half million unfilled jobs is clearly a terrible drag on the economy and a sad commentary of what many people consider to be a “good job,” but it also represents a tremendous opportunity for anyone willing to learn a trade and apply themselves.
Part of the problem is also that the licensing agencies for plumbers and electricians set rules to ensure that there is always a shortage of licensed plumbers and electricians, thus keeping prices high.

I think skilled workers of all kinds should be paid commensurate with their skills, and licensing agencies should stop distorting the market with protectionist rules.

And I think no one, regardless of education or wealth, should look down on anyone who does a needed job well.

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