AP NEWS

Give manual labor a chance

March 22, 2019

On Election Night 2016, Donald Trump said, “We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none and we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.”

Listening, I had hoped the angels were singing.

Great, I thought. The annual ritual with potholes, over. Schools with aging heating/air conditioning systems, replaced. Jobs for undereducated, ill-prepared teens and adults, no more.

And, finally, out with the fantastical “College for All” rhetoric, which had long bolstered one-size fits-all public schooling teaching pedagogy.

But that was replaced with another philosophy. Educators were stuck in the here and now and now we have a growing economy and a technology-driven business environment demanding workers for the future, but schooling has not met the demand.

A couple of examples, whether the jobs are in the military, a government bureaucracy or the private sector, employers need employees who can follow procedure and routines, and follow simple instructions and a distinct line of authority.

Think military, justice, law enforcement, health care and transportation industries. Politics and advocacy, not so much.

Generally speaking, job seekers already should know how to stay in their lane when they’re taught as much at home and during summer-job employment.

Every “inner city” has a quid pro quo summer-jobs program that pays politicians in spades at the ballot box.

Then there’s the dirty jobs like the economic development sector. Developers have to hire architects, illustrators and smooth talkers who, say, meet with stakeholders in Arlington, Virginia, to get them to buy into accepting Amazon as their neighbor, without Mr. Rogers unfortunately.

The dirty job doers are the employees who deconstruct what’s in place, prep the area for reconstruction and put a shiny new thing in its place.

In this scenario, too, think energy sector where countless jobs for oil, gas, wind, solar, nuclear and storage await but cannot be filled.

The energy sector needs employees to weld metal; install solar panels, electrical panels and wiring, pipes and plumbing; drive trucks; and walk through fields of mud that wood rival Woodstock.

When politicians push economic development proposals, all they see is the bottom line.

After all, since they have a job, all they see is bottom line and, of course, the subsequent media show pictures them standing alongside others with the obligatory “gold” shovel in hand for the perfunctory ground-breaking ceremony. Their manicures (and unseen pedicures) go unmarred.

Such jobs and job skills are the ones the angels heralded on election night 2016. They’re good jobs, doggone it, and somebody’s got to labor.

We need skilled Americans in the “inner city” to rebuild roads and bridges, schools and hospitals, and we need them to fill the jobs in the energy sector that are in plentiful demand and growing.

The job market is calling for laborers and manufacturing workers. All those boxes delivered by FedEx, Amazon and the U.S. Postal Service don’t appear by osmosis.

Here’s hoping politicians and educators aren’t dragging their feet because Donald Trump is in office. He’s wealthy and doesn’t need to know how a Caterpillar works he pays other people to have such skills.

If we are to truly move ourselves and our nation forward, we cannot afford to stay stuck on stupid with a one-size-fits-all public education system that stresses general schooling.

As Italian physicist Alessandro Volta said: “You must be ready to give up even the most attractive ideas when experiment shows them to be wrong.”

And, in case you didn’t know, he invented the electric battery.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.