I want to ask the assembled experts a tough question.

What kind of education is needed to boostrap the American economy?

Should we graduate hordes of engineers like India and China?  If so, I think most of them would be poor engineers.  We had enough of that during the Cold War.  But if only people with a true vocation go into engineering, will there be enough to maintain an industry to occupy them?

Should we graduate hordes of MBAs and lawyers?

What about community colleges?  Near my home there is a highly successful program that graduates medical laboratory technicians - the people who operate blood and urine test machines.  Most work at one large local employer.  The program is difficult, with many dropouts.  But it has been so successful that the wages of its graduates have fallen consistently for the last 10 years as their skill is oversupplied.

NPR recently featured an automated factory in Kentucky that supposedly needed 300  workers, and could not find them anywhere.  These folks would need good computer and communication skills along with the ability to run and troubleshoot several complicated machines.  Bilingual wouldn't hurt, either.  The NPR show went on to speculate about what sort of community college program would be needed to staff this factory.  But I am wondering where the people would come from.

Not just any ditch digger can learn to drive a backhoe.  That's good because one backhoe displaces a lot of diggers, and an oversupply of backhoe drivers would be bad in its own way.  But then, what's a ditch digger supposed to do?

This is not exactly an Atheist matter, but I have found the level of discourse here to be pretty high, and I'm looking forward to hearing some good ideas.  Thanks in advance.

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Right in general, but I am asking people to think about specifics.

Going back to my question, what do you think about two things:

1.  What if the retraining program is, say, 2 years long, and the jobs are gone or filled by the time Mr. Idle graduates?

2.  What if Mr. Idle used to be a good welder but is not academic, and cannot pass the robotic welding technician course?  How does that person find an economic purpose in an economy that's more complicated than he can handle?

 

So your answer is employer sponsored apprenticeship programs?  That's pretty good, thanks.  Of course, the risk for employers is that somebody takes the training and then bounces, but a bad economy and highly specialized training work against that.

I think employer sponsored apprenticeship programs are pretty rare.  Most retraining is done at community colleges, where the student takes all the risk of choosing the field, and has to invest two years to find out if they made a good choice.

The only guaranteed-employment program I've ever been in was the Navy.  That's not exactly an option for displaced workers older than about 25.

On the safety net thing, that's part of the problem.  Some part of the population is not smart enough to do anything but the low-pay, single skill jobs that have mainly gone overseas.  What can those people do besides go on relief?

That's really smart, thanks again.

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