Posted: February 24, 2011
Boeing 737 factory in Renton WA.
The Washington aerospace industry needs 1,500 new production workers every year for at least the next 10 years to maintain expected production levels while replacing retiring baby boomers. But, our entire state produces only 150 certified airframe mechanics every year.
This gap is one reason why you might want to read the new Pathways to Prosperity report by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It’s about the unintended consequences of the “college for all” pipedream that now shrouds public education in many parts of the United States.
The drive to increase the number of US college graduates gained traction in the 1960s and over the past 50 years, the number of US high school graduates who earn college degrees increased from 20% to 35%.
Unfortunately, as that percentage rose educational opportunities dimmed for the two-thirds of students who are not college bound. In many school systems the growing emphasis on college was accompanied by a de-emphasis on vocational education.
According to the Harvard report, as the number of shop classes and home economics programs fell, so did the life prospects for a growing number of students who now depart high school with no job skills or career awareness.
In 1973, more than 70% of all US jobs was held by people who possessed a high school degree and those who had dropped out of high school. In 2007, high school graduates and dropouts held just 41% of the jobs. And, with dropout rates soaring (the rate is more than 30% in Seattle), more and more young people are winding up on the margins of society.
According to the report, “Given these dismal attainment numbers, a narrowly defined ‘college for all’ goal – one that does not include a much stronger focus on career-oriented programs that lead to occupational credits – seems doomed to fail.”
In our view, a good chunk of our nation could fail right along with “college for all.”
The report recommends a number of new strategies to help middle school and high school students learn about the full range of educational opportunities that can lead to rewarding, gainful employment and calls on industrial businesses to become more engaged to make up for the “shop gap” through business tours, internships, help with curriculum development and providing guest speakers for classes.
If you want to learn how your company can get involved with education in greater Seattle, call the Manufacturing Industrial Council at 206-762-2470.
The MIC is joining the Puget Sound Industrial Excellence Center, the Seattle Community College District, the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee and others to put on a conference this spring featuring the lead author for the Pathways to Prosperity report, William Symonds.
The conference will also feature Dan Sturtevant, a researcher affiliated with MIT who conducted a study two years ago to find out why our state’s education system fails to meet the workforce needs of the aerospace industry. Like Symonds, Sturtevant cited the over emphasis on four-year academic degrees and the decline of K-12 vocational programs.
Sturtevant concluded that our state education system violates the law of labor supply and demand. Aerospace and other industrial sectors need more workers than our post-secondary system can provide because the K-12 system fails to connect enough students with these career and education opportunities.
Baby boomer retirements are already impacting the local aerospace sector by contributing to an attrition rate of about 6%, meaning that retirees and others leave the industry at the rate for each of the last two years.
That worked out to a loss of more than 9,000 workers during the two year period. About 3,000 of the job vacancies could not be filled during that period and Boeing recently announced it will need 4,000 to 5,000 new workers in 2011 to maintain its present production rate which in 2010 resulted in Boeing workers in greater Seattle turning out more than 460 aircraft.
Government agencies look at such numbers and wrongly conclude that Boeing lost 3,000 jobs when the number really reflects that the company wasn’t able to fill 3,000 job vacancies. Big difference. It’s the kind of thing that helps explain why Washington young people meet just 10% of our state’s need for aircraft production workers, forcing local employers to find new workers from outside the state while too many of our kids are left to struggle in the lower rungs of service sectors. Dumb.
More about this will be reported in future issues of the Seattle Industry ebulletin.
ShopGirls @ Harvard
Don’t under estimate the ability of the business community to impact education.
At the press conference at Harvard to roll out Pathways to Prosperity, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan lauded the ShopGirls program at Granite Falls High School where an all-girl team built a prototype car last year that got more than 470 miles to a gallon of diesel.
Duncan called the program one of his “favorite examples” of education programs that “are changing students’ lives.”
The ShopGirls came to the attention of Duncan’s staff through last October’s Third Annual Green Industrial Business and Career Expo cosponsored by the MIC, the Puget Sound Industrial Excellence Center, South Seattle Community College, the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee and many other partners including The Boeing Company and Nucor Steel Seattle.
The February 23 edition of MSNBC cable television show hosted by Dylan Rattigan featured the programs at Cleveland High School for STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The segment was part of the Steel on Wheels series cosponsored by Nucor Steel and it included a “shout out” about the support Cleveland receives from the local industrial business community.
(In case you haven't heard)
Overnight Closures of I-90 and 520 Bridges
Both I-90 and 520 will take turns closing all lanes in one direction over night for the next week. You might want to check traffic before you leave if you plan on traveling over the bridges between 7:00PM and 4:00AM. (www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/seattle/) More information can be found on WSDOT page:
Argo Bridge is Closing Soon
Airport Way South Viaduct over Argo Railroad Yard Rehabilitation Project is under way. Starting around April 1st the bridge will close for 12-14 months. All vehicles will detour to 4th Ave S. and bicycles to 1st Ave S in order to cross over the Railroad yard. For more info go to: www.seattle.gov/transportation/bridgerehab_airportargo.htm
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