High unemployment has muted manufacturing’s cry for skilled workers, but the cry is still there. It’s a paradox. As manufacturers shed unskilled workers, those who are left must be more skilled and versatile than ever. According to the Labor Department, American manufacturing produces more value per worker than ever before: eight times more productive, in real dollar terms, than workers were in 1941, thanks to skills and application of technology.
Technology, though, presents a problem for those training tomorrow’s skilled labor force. When it comes to training, it’s true that shop classes are shuttered in part because of misperceptions. School leaders follow media coverage of our “service-based economy” and adjust curricula to suit. But even during the good times, this wasn’t the only reason schools shifted resources away from shop classes.
Shop class is expensive.