Phi Beta Cons

All the Good Jobs Will Require a College Degree–Right?

I missed a few days of reading last week and only yesterday came across an important piece in the August 6 Wall Street Journal, “The Myth of Deindustrialization” by Joel Kotkin, available to subscribers here
Kotkin observes that there is a great deal of vitality in American manufacturing, despite all the gloom and doom about how all that work is going to “cheap labor” countries. Among other things, this means that there will continue to be demand in the labor market for people who have usable skills, not just people with college credentials. He writes that “skilled workers remain in great demand across much of the country — 80% of manufacturers in a recent survey…expected a shortfall in their numbers over the next three years. Construction, logistics management and trucking are particularly important in part because they provide a path to upward mobility for people with less than four-year college degrees. The jobs include welders, machinists and too-and-die makers.” 
Kotkin continues, “Such jobs may not be so easy a sell in big cities, where the educational establishment often disdains skills training.” Indeed. Why give a young person six months to a year of practical training in, oh, welding, when you could instead sell him on the need for a four-year college degree? After earning the degree, of course, the student may discover that there is a glut of young people with degrees from middling schools and that to get ahead he needs to learn a specific skill at a community college or technical training institute. 
He makes one more extremely important point having to do with the battle between the greens and the blues (blue-collar jobs, that is). Economist John Husing of Redlands, CA is quoted as saying, “the greens would just as soon kill this whole (ports and trade) sector. They would like to eliminate the port, eliminate manufacturing and eliminate construction. They want to eliminate the entire blue-collar economy.” 
So there will be plenty of demand for skilled blue-collar work, at least until the greens succeed in driving it away.        

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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