A promise of jobs to come back to America, but do we have the workforce ready to go? — Workers can’t depend upon the benevolence of employers…

UPDATE (10-14-11)

After posting what follows below I happened to talk to one of my brothers on the phone, and since I am a truck driver, he commented to me that he heard a story on NPR that there is a strong demand for truck drivers (thanks I already have a driver job — don’t need another one), and that companies are so desperate that they in some cases are offering free training. I said, yes, that story comes out or is redone about once a year. The company I work for has a sign out front saying “drivers wanted” and it has been displaying that sign for more than a decade and a half. But way back in 1995 I did go to a three-week whirlwind truck driving school (not with my present employer) in Fresno, Ca., held in a dusty dirt lot and then on the city streets of Fresno and finally on old Highway 99, and it was paid by my first employer. And I was hired out of that school run by that employer. I also have a four-year college degree. For me, although I enjoyed college immensely and am glad I attained my BA degree (in political science — please don’t laugh, as most interviewers did when I searched for jobs), the three-week school gave me an occupation that has provided me steady work ever since. I still strongly believe in a liberal arts education. But whether you go for academics or hands on, you have to train for specific skills (and not too narrow either) at some point (the brother I mentioned went to law school and is a lawyer — that is a specific skill). I did work as a newspaper reporter both before and after attaining my BA degree, but the skill sets I had there are in about as much demand these days as those for a buggy whip salesman. My point in all of this is that there might be more jobs available if the powers that be in public education pushed real job skills (along with academics — they actually go hand in hand), or at least once jobs do return — and they will, there would be a workforce ready to go. Public schools need to upgrade their vocational education programs, to include training for both hands-on trades and business skills (always in demand). But most (not all) professional educators live in a protected bubble outside of the real world. Ever talk to a career or guidance counselor? Don’t bother. Do your own research.

And since I mentioned my one brother, I feel I should mention my other one, and my sister. My sister attained a four-year degree at a public university and became a lab scientist in the medical field and my other brother was in the Navy for 20 years and then was a college instructor for many years (all of us have combined academics with specific skills is what I am trying to say).

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I just read a story about an American businessman who is bringing some of his jobs back to the U.S. — only some mind you — because the rise in the cost of labor in China makes it worthwhile to do the work here and it cuts down on the lead time for orders (it takes three weeks to get the stuff from China — the slow boat from China).

There have been some other stories recently in the news that suggest there is a movement to bring jobs back to the U.S.

This is all very promising.

But it was interesting to me that the man interviewed said that he believed in having stuff made here because there is more control over the production and better product safety protection — yeah a businessman worried about product safety. He made that remark in relationship to buying a crib for his child. He wanted to make sure it was safe — none of that toxic Chinese paint and such.

On the other hand, he is perfectly willing to have the bulk of his stuff made in China and sell to the American public. Business is business.

But he is not in the crib-making business. His firm sells tap handles and other brewing equipment.

In the story (to which I will provide a link) he said that the advantage of doing some of the work here is that it can be partially automated with skilled American workers operating the machinery and he can get the orders to his customers much quicker. But some of the work for his products requires intensive and skillful hand labor, the workforce for which he has only been able to find in China.

Whatever. It does sound good that some jobs are coming back.

Personally, I think that any firm headquartered in the U.S. and taking advantage of the market here and the services and protections offered by the taxpayers here should pay a hefty tariff for products it has made overseas and then imports back here.

I do think, though, that this shows a promise that manufacturing can return to the U.S. and our economy can recover.

He also made a comment about the fact that a relatively new provision in the law that allows him to take immediate depreciation on capital investments allowed him to finance an expansion that will allow him to create new American jobs.

Now veering off the main point here, I think now and into the future American workers are going to need to quit seeing themselves as just workers at the whim of their benevolent employers and instead think of themselves as independent contractors — but not necessarily in the strict or legal sense — who have skills for sale. But accordingly, just like the business lobbies, they will have to look out for their own interests and prevail upon their elected representatives at all levels of government to cater to their interests. And I am not trying to talk up so-called organized labor. In some instances unions might be the answer (I don’t know). But unions have a way of becoming an entity all to themselves that do not always represent the interests of the working man or woman. I also think a working person is better off to have a skill to sell and to be able to deal directly with the person who wants that skill.

As to corporate greed, that is a problem. But corporate greed is just an extension of the natural inborn greed of any human being (not saying that everyone is by nature greedy, but greed is not exactly an aberration either).

I have been listening to a book on tape (I’m a driver so this works best for me) about Alexander Hamilton, and the interesting thing is that the issues that we might think of as new today are just old history — they had the same problems of the varying interests of workers and businessmen and government, to include people using government to line their own pockets, and so on, back at the founding of our nation.

This may not fit in here, but it seems to me is that what we need is a representative government that is not bought and paid for by special commercial interests. Voting out all incumbents might not be a bad idea, but we do have to be concerned about who replaces them. And I still favor a non-professional set of legislators and elected executives. I would like to see people wanting to please the voters not the fat cat contributors, but also people willing to stand up to the voters themselves and do what is right — that is leadership.

Oh, and that link to the story that inspired this post:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/13/business/smallbusiness/bringing-manufacturing-back-to-the-united-states.html?pagewanted=2

I hope that link works. You see the NY Times limits how many freebies I get, but I sometimes just Google the story and get it without paying or logging in. I have no problem with the idea that news is a product and should be paid for (I used to be in that business), but if something is free or for a fee, I’ll take free every time (as long as it is the same thing).

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