Politicians get elected on the promise of jobs. Budgets get money on the promise of jobs. Cities give tax credits on the promise of jobs. People apply on the promise of jobs. So where are the jobs?
For my inaugural article on jobs, I think a look at history will help put things in focus. The United States is not the only nation facing employment dilemmas in the year 2011. We have a short history as a nation but it surely encompasses the evolution of the meaning of “work,” how the status of the worker has evolved, and the business view of an “able” employee. By “able” I mean a person capable of doing the job as visioned by the employer.
In the 1700’s and 1800’s, apprenticeships were applied for and “paid for” with servitude by the potential learner. The apprentice was indentured to the tradesman for the duration of a contract. Perhaps a son was fortunate enough to be taught his father’s craft, whether it was tailoring, shoemaking, stonecutting, or carpentry, it was passed down the family generation after generation. In 1937 the U.S. enacted the National Apprenticeship Law. There was a Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training organized in the Dept. of Labor. In 1962 in order to help the disadvantaged, Federal regulation was enacted to ensure nondiscrimination in training and apprenticeships. Outreach programs to the unemployed were implemented under the Manpower Development and Training Act of 1962. Apprenticeship Information Centers were operated by state employment services. Many high schools, vocational schools and technical schools offered preparatory courses for entering an apprenticeship program. According to Apprenticeship Past and Present, a U.S. Dept. of Labor publication, in 1969 there were 250,000 registered apprentices working in the U.S. This was the highest number of apprentices in U.S. history. The average age was between 16 and 24 years of age. The U.S. was deep into the Industrial Age by 1937 and waking up the fact that people needed training to prepare for changing economics in 1962.
There is an Office of Apprenticeship in the Dept. of Labor today. A directive was written in 2006 entitled Vision for 21st Century Apprenticeship. There are four websites mentioned in the directive which reference apprentice programs: CareerOneStop , Workforce3one.org , NITAS The National Information Technology Apprenticeship System, and The Council for Adult and Experential Learning. The NITAS system may not be operational as of the writing of this piece.
Apprenticeships are one way to help solve the U.S. unemployment situation. What is very extremely disturbing is that, for example, according to the New York Times (Fighting Illiteracy in Chicago, With Enthusiasm, January 14, 2010) Chicago’s illiteracy rate is 53%; the national average is 23%. These are adults who cannot demonstrate basic reading proficiency. So how can these adults qualify for an apprentice program? Obviously they cannot. Not without adequate schooling. So there is education (formal) and then there is preparation (vocational) and/or perhaps there is professional certification (post-graduate).
A Time Magazine article on NATFA (North America Free Trade Agreement) reiterates Ross Perot’s concern that the agreement would cause manufacturing jobs to move to Mexico; instead they moved to China. But they did exit the U.S. Although implementing NAFTA raised concern about losing manufacturing jobs in 1994, that time period just happened to experience the birth of the graphical Internet by the introduction of software browsers such as Netscape. It’s not just the blue collar worker who sees jobs vaporize, it’s white collar workers too. To be continued —