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Monday, December 19, 2011

Rahm Emanuel Is On To Something

Unfortunately, he's not on to it enough.

Read "Chicago's Plan to Match Education With Jobs" by Chicago's mayor.  In it he's patting himself on the back for (a) recognizing the fact that millions of Americans today are without work, (b) addressing the fact that thousands upon thousands of jobs in America go unfilled because we lack skilled workers, and (c) letting the world know that he's partnering with area community colleges to meet (a) up with (b).

And that's a good thing.  As far as it goes.

Business needs trained computer technicians and community colleges can be there to provide qualified candidates with the necessary training to prospective employees so that those positions are filled.

Good deal.

Here's my only problem with Emanuel's plan.  He cites one Chicago-area employer - AAR Corp., an aviation-parts manufacturer - the only company he mentions - at length - as being unable to find 600 welders and mechanics to make itself whole. He touts the fact that he has hooked AAR up with Chicago's Olive-Harvey College so that the former can get its needs for welders and mechanics met.

A question: Why is it up to colleges to provide this kind of education? Mechanics? Welders? Shouldn't those be the kinds of positions that high schools prepare students for?

I've said for years that one mistake we make in this country is in our putting too much emphasis on college prep in high school and not enough on technological training and "mechanical arts." Why have a curriculum geared toward getting everyone into college when many students wish to be welders and mechanics?

I've even advocated in the past separating out high schools from high schools. With the proper application of aptitude tests and interviews, those inclined to an academic career could - and should - be separated from those who intend to turn wrenches and write code.  Build the curriculum and train them accordingly.

Anyway, Rahm Emanuel is right as far as he takes it. But public schools are missing the mark when it comes to training America's youth.

America's college enrollment rate is at an all-time high.

Job placement of college graduates is at near-record lows.

And hundreds of thousands of jobs go unfilled because of a lack of qualified candidates.

What's wrong with this picture?