Yesterday's "Fabricating Update" lead item ruffled feathers, raised hackles, and had this editor ducking for cover as fabricators sounded off about comments from the Obama administration's recently released employment report.
The item cited an article that appeared in The Washington Post about President Obama's economic team releasing an upbeat employment forecast July 13. The forecast predicted robust jobs growth in the health-care and clean-energy sectors, and a recovery in manufacturing positions over the next decade. The report also addressed the need for improvements in education and job training.
The newsletter item concluded by asking readers what they thought about the report and whether it indicated that the government finally understands the need for better education and training programs—something manufacturers have sought for a long, long time. Be careful what you ask for; you might just get it, with both barrels.
A rural Midwest company president wrote, "Keep politics out of your publication. The Obama administration does not care about manufacturing, and does not understand its importance, as we are the 'red headed illegitimate step-child' in the group. Unemployment will crest into the double digits for the manufacturing sector; I'll lay money on it. You or members of your publication may also feel the impact with some jobs lost. Do not ever say that the administration prevented 'any number of jobs lost,' unless those numbers reflect federal government jobs (it is baseless and impossible to prove ... balderdash). Until this administration is 'changed,' I think that it is safe to say that 'hope' is all you have. We in the manufacturing sector who make our living by 'making things' instead of 'making laws' will have to deal with taxes like 'cap and trade,' as well as 'government health care.' The government does not deal in creating wealth, just redistributing it. Nothing the government does is efficient or cost-effective. My only comfort is in knowing that I can make things which will allow me to 'eat.' Eventually our sector will have its day, but it won't be today ... it may be in a few tomorrows ... but it will require hitting a bottom. Keep the political gibberish out of your publication ... I don't drink the Kool-Aid, I drink beer."
A like-minded individual who works for a fabricating shop in the Southeast wrote, "I think this is all a load of BS. We don't need better trained employees. We need something for employees to do.
"The more taxes, rules and regulations by the government are killing the economy. The stimulus is a cruel joke.
"You cannot build an economy from the bottom up. The economy needs to be built through investment and nobody is investing as everyone is afraid of what the government will do next (cap and trade, tax, deficits, health care mandates, and on and on).
"I didn't expect such a pile of rubbish from the fabricator. Good luck selling this story."
After reading these responses, and after the stinging subsided, I understood how readers might have misinterpreted the purpose of the newsletter item, which simply was to publish information from the employment report and ask them to weigh in with their thoughts. Publishing the statements was not an endorsement or an attempt to sell a story, but hey, I brought it on by ignoring the cardinal rule against mentioning sensitive issues, such as politics.
Not all readers who responded felt the need to shoot the messenger. One who works in the energy sector wrote, "Government never gets anything and is incapable of improvements in any sector. The government-run education system has been inept for years. Don't expect to see any changes from the current administration. The private sector should be educating our children and industry needs to solve its own training issues."
A reader from a New York-based consulting firm had quite a bit to say about the state of education: "Unfortunately, I do not think the government can get all of the factions and special interest groups involved to agree. I have been hearing the same story over and over, and our education system continues to wallow in the muck of politics, school boards, and unions. We as a nation will continue to fall behind the competition that we face from the entire world. We have not been graduating enough engineers, research scientists, and those in a hundred more fields to keep up with a changing world.
"Advanced schooling is seemingly more important to the foreign students we welcome to our colleges and universities, than to many American students. I welcome the visitors with open arms because many of them may choose to stay here and help sustain our diminishing knowledge base.
"It is not just the 'old' countries giving better education, it is emerging nations too, like China and other countries that are much more studious. We give our students three or more months off during the year and wonder why we fall behind? Learning should be a full-time job, just like living.
"Right now we have a sorry state when we have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of students who say they are 'unemployable' after graduation from college. The economy is closing the door in their faces now. The saddest sight is a student who wants to get a job in his or her specific field working at a Dunkin Donuts or chain store, all because we have chased the mighty dollar and shifted so much of our production to cheaper overseas locations.
"The next saddest sight is unemployed graduates lying around their parents' homes, not even looking for work. Did their parents forget to teach them about volunteering? Did they not teach their children to help others? Join the Peace Corps, join AmeriCorps, join and help others.
"If you look hard enough, everyone can find a job, even if it is only a sustenance-level job. It is called the School of Hard Knocks. This is something those who lived through the Great Depression and WWII taught the next generation (mine)."
One lone reader suggested the best way the government can help with training through a program that's already in place. "The best way for the government to train employees is through the Incumbent Worker Training grant programs that are currently funded by the Feds and administered by the states. We recently applied for funding in the form of dollar for dollar match and were awarded funds to help us get AS 9100 and lean manufacturing implemented in our small (48 employees) fabricating business. This was a relatively painless process and although it took us about four months to go through the application and review processes, [the funding] will allow us to complete our certification and lean programs at half the cost. This way our employees are trained exactly as we want them to be trained and not the way some industry ignorant or specialist in a community college bureaucracy sees fit."
To find out more about this program, Google the name of your state along with Incumbent Worker Training.
More responses are hitting my inbox. Maybe I should have my bulletproof vest refurbished before opening them.
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