Yvonne Hollebeck: Skills and the economy
The news these days is frequently about people being out of work, which there seems to be plenty of especially due to the pandemic, however, one can only think about what occupations offer job security. One sector that has kept people steadily employed, and even having a shortage of workers, is the medical field. Other fields, such as utility workers, law enforcement and the like are relatively secure in keeping employees working. Then I think of all of the vocations where there seems to be a shortage of workers and in my opinion it is because of the lack of vocational training in our schools.
Here I go reminiscing again. When I went to high school, which seems like a lifetime ago, even the smallest rural high school offered all sorts of vocational education. Many of the boys took Ag classes where they learned to weld, basic mechanics, etc., and girls took mandatory home economics classes where they learned to sew and cook. I took typing, shorthand, bookkeeping and office practice, which prepared me well for any type of office job after graduating from high school. Most schools also had a work experience program for seniors where you worked in various fields and were able to determine if you liked it or not. For instance, I worked first as a bookkeeper at an auto dealership and did not enjoy it, but during the school year, a local attorney asked if I would like to transfer to his office due to his knowledge of my typing and shorthand skills. I loved every bit about working in a law office and was offered a full time job there after graduation. This led to my becoming a bonded Abstracter and owning my own title company. Had it not been for the vocational training I had in high school, this would not have happened.
One farm boy in our school took four years of Ag and shop classes and upon his senior year had his work experience with a local electrician. Fast forward to a few years ago, that boy sold a major interest in his electric company for a mere $58,000,000 and has remained the CEO of the company. Another boy in our school excelled in welding; developed and operated a very successful side-roll irrigation system as well as other livestock handling equipment…all courtesy of the vocational training from high school. I can go through my old yearbooks and tell many of these same types of stories.
In my opinion (feeble as it may be), when our government officials talk about economic development and bringing jobs to our states, those same officials never seem to have the answers. If they would look into putting vocational training back into schools we would do more good for our young people than anything. It would be wonderful to see some of the wasted tax money go to grants to help get new vocational businesses going, or at least tax incentives such as they seem eager to give to mega corporations. If you pick up a newspaper anywhere in the area, you will find many ads wanting welders, electricians, carpenters, cooks, mechanics, and about every type of trained worker, and these are good jobs with benefits, but seem to go unfilled week after week. There seems to be a great emphasis on college education but very little mention of the trade schools. Regarding that matter, there is a very busy plumber with a very successful new plumbing business in Valentine, Nebraska, and that young man received a law degree from the University of Nebraska, and found that the vocational training from his father and grandfather afforded him a much better profession.
If there was more emphasis and training of vocational skills in our school systems, I believe there would not only be more workers available for these unfilled jobs, but would also help fill a void in finding much needed services in about every field. Have you tried to hire a plumber, electrician, carpenter, mechanic, or painter lately? How about finding someone to fix your vacuum or sewing machine, reupholster a chair or tractor seat? The business community could grow by leaps and bounds if we had skilled people to fill these voids, and in my estimation is certainly something the powers-that-be should be looking at.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood, for the Feb. 20, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News