Education and Industry

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Education and Industry

Postby RoseMorninStar » Tue Dec 13, 2011 2:42 pm

Our local paper had an article regarding a proposed Charter school. What I found of particular interest is the comment,
'"What will make our Charter school unique is that it is being directly driven by a need for an educated workforce for our local manufacturers." ... (The District Superintendent) said he has also been touring local manufacturing companies to see first-hand what type of education their employees need with an eye to developing partnerships with them and the charter school."


While I am not opposed to the idea of a charter school, I was a bit puzzled and I was wondering how this works in other communities.

Some (politicians/pundits/businesses, etc..) have been making a case that we do not have manufacturing because we do not have a work-ready educated work force .. and I am not sure what they mean by that. We have an excellent (award winning) public school system, one that offers CAD classes and many other 'tech' classes. We have an excellent local Technical college and a community college. 'They' complain that the public schools are too focused on readying students for college. I believe that currently 20-25% of the students from our local public schools go on to college.. that still leaves an awful lot of people available to fill manufacturing jobs. I am puzzled.

In the past, we have had strong industries in our smallish town, so much so that Ripley's Believe it or Not' declared this city to be the only town in America that did not enter the Great Depression. We had several leather goods companies, several aluminum (pots & pans, small appliances) manufacturers, farm machinery, etc.. but they all left in the 80's... and it wasn't because there wasn't an available educated/experienced work force. The departure of these industries threw most of the people in this town out of living wage occupations. It is one of the reasons we saw an increase in students going on to college.. there were no manufacturing jobs to be had after High School. I worry that if young people are only given an education in a very narrow field to benefit a particular manufacturer.. where will they be when that industry ups & moves for cheaper labor elsewhere? And should we be using tax-payer dollars to benefit/train a workforce for a particular manufacturer? At the age of roughly 13, is it a good idea for students to be trained in a particular Industry or program to benefit a particular manufacturer?

Opinions? Experiences? Pro or Con, what say you?
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Postby Old_Begonia » Tue Dec 13, 2011 5:36 pm

Rose, I have no experience, but I’m happy to give you the benefit of my opinion. =]]
On the one hand, I think it is clear, prima fascie, that educating people to one narrow field is short sighted. But let’s look at the real alternative, and it’s not college. We’re talking about the 75% to 80% who are now doing…what? McDonalds? Military? Homemaking? (Does anyone actually WANT to be a homemaker anymore?) Moving to the big[ger] city to find [what kind of] employment?
Being trained to do SOMETHING is better than to be trained to do nothing, or not to be trained at all. Being provided with an expectation of having something useful to do is better than being provided with the blank slate that most high school graduates have. “Here, we’ve taught you to read, write and cipher. Go now, live long and prosper.”
Regarding the problem you identify, ‘what if the manufacturer moves away or shuts down?’ Well? That has been shown to have a tri-nary solution set: 1) one sits and waits for another manufacturer to set up business, 2) one moves with the manufacturer, 3) one retrains and changes one’s field of endeavor. There are other alternatives, but those are, I think, the big three. Well, and so…what? What is the ‘evil’ (my word, not yours), what is the problem? Life changes. Whether you are a doctor, lawyer or widget maker, things change. I have no problem with people being taught widget making, either as a short or long term means of providing for oneself and one’s family. I see a REAL problem if people are trained to make, paint or pack widgets and are at the same time led to believe that they will be allowed to continue in the widget business for 20, 30 or 40 years and can then comfortably retire. That is an illusion and when those same people are DISillusioned there will be hell to pay. I guess what I’m saying is that this training needs to be accompanied by some effort to enlighten the student to the inevitability of change. “Not only might you have to change from painting to packing widgets, you might have to move somewhere else to continue doing it. You can also use widget making as a stepping stone to doing something else: make widgets for two years, save up your money and buy window washing equipment and go into business for yourself! Or move to the other end of the world and teach someone else to make widgets. The point is, few people are doing today what they were doing five years ago. And even fewer have any reasonable expectation of continuing to do the same thing five years from now.” One might argue it is not the place of the educator to do this, that sort of reality speak ought rightfully to come from the parents and be taught in the home. One might be correct, but as with so many other things left up to the state, I think this one will be as well.
Ought the prospective employers be consulted and kowtowed to? (“How would you like us to train your serfs…er, excuse me, I mean the students?”) I’m sure the expectation here is that the manufacturers will provide some assets for the process: funding, equipment, trainers. Ought this to be? Well, if it were the case that ALL students would be REQUIRED to pursue this type of study, I’d have to disagree with the approach. Typically Charter schools present a scarcity economy, meaning not everyone will be ALLOWED to engage in this option. Certainly it will appeal to some students and parents.
From the employers point of view there is another issue, I think, and it is this. Whether the Charter school specifically teaches widget making or weather observations, the students must meet specific standards to be allowed to continue in that academic setting. This meeting of standards begins to address the real issue: work ethics: COMING to work, DOING the job, doing the job WELL. These ethics or standards are not necessarily presented or required as a part of many public schools, though God knows, some teachers do try. Again, one might argue these ought to be taught by the parents, in the home. But they’re not. Notions of integrity and self-respect seem to be rather the exception than the norm, philosophical ideals rather than actual expectations.
So there you have it. At least, what comes to mind at the moment.
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Postby RoseMorninStar » Tue Dec 13, 2011 7:16 pm

Begonia.. good points.

I can see the benefits of an alternate type of schooling for some students. I have a nephew that would probably have benefited from such a program. But, at the time he went through school, there were no jobs to go into except perhaps construction. But your point (not sure if it was intended to be 'pro' or 'con') kind of makes my point. The day of working for one company/corporation/manufacturer is a thing of the past. Industry is ever changing, almost fleeting. Is it beneficial for a student to be trained for a particular manufacturer in a 3-4 year high school setting? What happens when that manufacturer (inevitably?) leaves/closes shop? IF that person had been given a good general education, which may or may not include technical courses, wouldn't they be more adaptable to the whims and transient nature of industry?


P.S. I'm a home maker.. and I love my 'job'.
:oops: :|
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Postby Old_Begonia » Tue Dec 13, 2011 8:18 pm

IF that person had been given a good general education, which may or may not include technical courses, wouldn't they be more adaptable to the whims and transient nature of industry?

Maybe. If part of that ‘good general education’ includes the notion of change and the necessity of adaptability, then perhaps.
And perhaps it is not clear whether I am pro or con because I hardly know myself. You raised the issue of whether it is right or appropriate to channel dwindling tax dollars into this type of thing. It’s bad enough that most of us are indeed little better than serfs, most acutely in a town supported by manufacture, but to use the tax dollar to funnel the young into the yoke and harness adds to the mortification.I think in general, I am FOR the Charter school idea, More options are always better. But I would want to see it partially, or heavily, underwritten by that corner of industry which most stands to benefit from it.
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Postby Cerin » Tue Dec 13, 2011 8:39 pm

Education should encourage people to look beyond their local surroundings to a larger world, not train them for manufacturing jobs. Training the 99% for a life of subservience to the 1% . . . it's a horrible view of education, imo.
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Postby portia » Tue Dec 13, 2011 8:48 pm

The purpose of Charter Schools seems to me, from observing, to be to try out different educational ideas and approaches, to fit different needs or to find something that might work better than what else is being tried.

So, I am not too surprised or shocked at a Charter school that is openly set up to train for manufacturing jobs.
It seems like a trade school, but on the High School level, rather than the post High School level.

For me, it would depend on what courses are offered. We still need people who can have some idea of national issues and history, even if they spend their careers digging ditches. So"Civics" should not be neglected. But we need people who work competently with their hands, and not just their minds.
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Postby Old_Begonia » Tue Dec 13, 2011 9:15 pm

In my neck of the woods we have some 'schools of focus'. One focuses on the arts, another on...civics, I think...government or something. My youngest are 26 and both in the military, so it's been a while since I contemplated this much.

On the other hand, my husband teaches piano privately and has several charter school students. It's a pain in the gluteous maximus to go through the purchase order system and wait 2 months for payment. But he's known for taking all comers. (He has one blind student, one with Asperger's, and has had several with behavioral problems.)

[Edit to ad]
Wikipedia has a pretty good article on Charter Schools in general including the history and so on.
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Postby Cerin » Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:46 am

portia wrote:But we need people who work competently with their hands, and not just their minds.

I don't believe people need pointed education in order to be able to work competently with their hands! We all develop our small motor skills in the course of growing up. I believe such schools as Rose is describing are meant to train people to think of themselves in a limited fashion, to docilely accept their destinies as cogs in the corporate machine, and to save businesses the cost of on-the-job training (which no doubt cuts into their sacred profit margin). I think it's disgusting. (This reflects my own strong feeling only, and is not meant as a personal criticism of anyone here who might have a different opinion; nor is it meant to denigrate the worth of manufacturing jobs or those who hold them.)
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Postby Storyteller » Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:00 am

We live in pretty confusing times, education wise. To be employable, you need to specialize, but the ever-changing nature of knowledge economy can pull the rug out from under you at any moment and render your specialization a relic of the past. Granted, there are jobs the need for which never goes away- but someone needs to do those other jobs, too.

I think there is no sense in narrowly specializing at 13-14 unless one has already displayed a strong aptitude for something specific. Otherwise, why narrow your own range of options?
"...Their aim in war with Germany is nothing more, nothing less than extermination of Hitlerism... There is absolutely no justification for this kind of war. The ideology of Hitlerism, just like any other ideological system, can be accepted or rejected, this is a matter of political views. But everyone grasps, that an ideology can not be exterminated by force, must not be finished off with a war.” - Vyacheslav Molotov, ""On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union", 31 October 1939
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Postby Storyteller » Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:13 am

Cerin wrote:
portia wrote:But we need people who work competently with their hands, and not just their minds.

I don't believe people need pointed education in order to be able to work competently with their hands! We all develop our small motor skills in the course of growing up.

But small motor skills are not all it takes to work with your hands.
"...Their aim in war with Germany is nothing more, nothing less than extermination of Hitlerism... There is absolutely no justification for this kind of war. The ideology of Hitlerism, just like any other ideological system, can be accepted or rejected, this is a matter of political views. But everyone grasps, that an ideology can not be exterminated by force, must not be finished off with a war.” - Vyacheslav Molotov, ""On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union", 31 October 1939
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Postby RoseMorninStar » Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:14 am

As I said, I do not know what similar schools are like in other communities. I think a school such as this COULD be a great idea for certain students if:

*students are given general education (English/writing, History/Civics, Economics/Maths, Science, etc.. in addition to job skills training.

* the 'job skills' that students are taught would be trade-type occupations whose skills would be transferable to more than a single manufacturer. For example.. plumber, electrician, mechanic, CAD designer, etc... and they would not be forced or semi-forced to enter into a particular local manufacturer.

However, like Cerin.. I fear it could easily go the other way, where students are given minimal education to train them for a specific task, or, if these schools enter into some type of partnership with a particular industry which would limit the options that the students may take at graduation from such a school. I guess the school would only be as good (or bad) as the people who set it up. And I wonder, at the age of about 13, are students ready to make a decision. I suppose it may not be so different, as Old Begonia said, as a 'High School for the Arts'.. but are those High Schools are run in partnership with and for the benefit of (for example) one or two theater companies? Although.. I suppose if one is an actor/singer/set designer, those skills would be transferable to other theatrical arts industries.

*edited to add. There is a lot of industry in Wisconsin by (as an example) the Koch brothers.. paper mills and such. If such a school was paired with a paper mill, for example, would students learn how to work in a paper mill, specifically? If that were the case.. and the set of job skills learned were fairly narrow, how transferable would those job skills be? And.. would an employer have an unfair advantage with wages if young people (13-18 years of age) were trained in how to work at a paper mill, but little else? Would they be/feel qualified to go elsewhere, perhaps even into another line of work if they felt the employer was not paying a living wage? Or would they be at square one and only 'educated' enough for low level jobs? It would be different if, say a hospital paired with a school and taught nursing (although I would still wish that basic broad-field education was met). The nursing skills would be transferable to almost anywhere.
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