What's to Blame?

We all know that the skills gap is a huge problem, but who or what is to blame? Some look to college as the source of the problem, but have we forgotten the fact that until a year ago this industry (and virtually all of manufacturing) was in a state of long-term and rapid decline? Shops were closing, business was rushing to China, schools were dropping classes due to lack of funding, and all of America was demanding "every day low prices." College was a choice that was (falsely in many cases) offered as an alternative to the seemingly dead-end choice of learning a trade. This situation was created by the free market, and it will only be solved by the free market. Let me explain.

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We all know that the skills gap is a huge problem right at this moment, but who is to blame? Some look to college as the source of the problem, but have we forgotten the fact that until a year ago this industry (and virtually all of manufacturing) was in a state of long-term and rapid decline? Shops were closing, business was rushing to China, schools were dropping classes due to lack of funding, and all of America was demanding "every day low prices." College was a choice that was (falsely in many cases) offered as an alternative to the seemingly dead-end choice of learning a trade.

This situation was created by the free market, and it will only be solved by the free market. When consumers start demanding more domestically-produced items, then local manufacturing jobs will become more viable, long-term opportunities. The labor market will then respond accordingly. It will take time, but then this problem was not created overnight. Colleges could actually help by educating students on how to make better choices in their roles as both citizens of a democracy and consumers in a free-market.

Rather than just constantly demanding "every day low prices," Americans should learn about all of the COSTS of their decisions--not just those included in the price of the good or service, but also the externalized costs as well. These externalized costs will include, but are not limited to: the costs to our society and/or community; the costs to their long-term health; the costs of disposal; the costs to the environment; and the costs that are passed on to future generations. Most of these costs are not included in the price of a good, especially goods that are imported from countries like China. But one way or another, we all pay for them. Or our children will pay for them.

People will need a lot more education in order to make good choices based on all of these costs. That is the role of college. College is not needed in order to teach us how to make a living. That is the wrong reason to go to college, and if that is the main reason that students are going, then the return on the investment of their time and tuition will most likely be insufficient. But college education is desperately needed if we are to learn how to live a life that is both productive AND beneficial to the community, the country, and the world.

 

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