Rebecca Kemble, a stringer for the Progressive, covered a legislative committee hearing in Madison, Wisconsin, where business groups lined up to complain that the schools were not meeting their needs. They complained that they could not find workers with the right set of skills. Despite high unemployment in the area, manufacturers say that they can’t find suitably trained workers. They had no data to back up what they said, just opinions.
The extraordinary thing that Kemble did was to look at the kind of engineering jobs that were going unfilled. As Kemble writes:
Some manufacturers also claim that they can’t fill high-skilled engineering positions, but they don’t mention the salaries, benefits, and terms of employment associated with those jobs. A search of mechanical engineering positions currently open in the Milwaukee metropolitan area requiring a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and five years of experience yielded the most results in the $30,000 – $50,000/year salary category. Some of those positions are offered on a contract or temporary basis, meaning no benefits.
Another alarming development:
Already this year Scott Walker has signed into law a measure that stacks the governing board of the Milwaukee Area Technical College with business owners, giving them control of program, curriculum, hiring, and firing decisions.
The manufacturers are working together with friendly legislators to develop “laws that use the public education system to orient, train, and track kids into the corporate working world at a young age. Rep. Farrow mentioned that he would like that tracking to begin in first grade. But Tim Sullivan, who appeared before the committee as Scott Walker’s recently appointed “Special Consultant for Business and Workforce Development,” has even more ambitious ideas: ‘In workforce development we say, you begin at birth and end at the grave.’“
There was constant teacher-bashing during the day-long session. One educator tried to remind the committee that the public schools have a duty to educate the citizenry. But they were hopelessly antagonistic to anything but workforce training to serve their own needs.
I bet they didn’t know that Wisconsin has the highest graduation rate of any state in the nation.