The economy has been at the top of my mind after a recent experience with unemployment. After all the drama and the support I received from all sides, there came the simple issue of what I will do to feed my family and keep a roof over our heads.
Trained as a journalist, I found myself unemployed with the skills needed to bring important issues to light. Why not figure out why we simultaneously have lots of unemployed people and lots of job openings? And when I say lots of job openings, I mean lots.
Companies that employ skilled laborers can’t find enough people. There are 325,000 current job postings in Texas and the state’s workforce commission reports that there are four applicants for every opening. Commission Chairman Tom Pauken says the well-intentioned policy of putting every Texas child on the college track isn’t working.
It “flies in the face of reality and human nature,” Pauken said.
The man who may head up the Texas Senate Education Committee next year, Sen. Dan Patrick, agrees. Patrick, R-Houston, told the Texas Tribune, “Everyone should have the option to go to college. But, not everyone should be tracked to go to a four-year university. … We need to value what I call blue-collar work.
“My grandfather was that kind of blue-collar worker,” Patrick said. “He served honorably in Korea and Vietnam in the U.S. Air Force. When he returned to the states, he became a mechanic to provide for his family. His business card read ‘Art Downing, General Repairs.’
“Because he often worked on complex farm equipment, a good portion of his day could be spent learning exactly how something was put together before he could even start the back-breaking work of repairing it,” he continued. “He essentially trained himself so that he could do the work.
“My grandfather also taught me the art of helping people understand complex ideas,” Patrick said. “He’d sit and read the encyclopedia for fun. When I was an 8-year-old boy, he could always explain things to me in a way that I would understand.”
Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill about his grandfather and the “widening skills gap” in America. He told the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that we need a national PR campaign that “reconnects the country with the most important part of our workforce.”
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