EDITORIAL: Fund jobs of the future
In this election season, much debate is happening over industries that have bled good-paying jobs. Unfortunately, the political rhetoric often misses the most critical point, which is that industries are always disrupted, often because of new technology or environmental innovations.
This is both a good and a bad thing. New technology brings new opportunity for growth, and it does bring new jobs. Yet, when you are a worker who has built your life — and your family’s well-being — around the industry you have served faithfully for decades, and it is suddenly disrupted, you are often left without much hope for a brighter future.
The solution is not to blame others or wish to turn back the clock, however. That’s magical thinking and often does more harm than good, breeding disappointment and anger.
The solution is for leaders — those politicians seeking our votes today — to fully support communities where the disruption of an industry, such as the coal industry, has left hard-working residents without safety nets.
Certainly, we prioritize our tax dollars in countless ways. Our national budget, like a household budget, should be a reflection of our higher priorities. So there is always an opportunity to state what we believe in and then fund it properly. The electorate has the power to demand this political will is employed for the greater good. Why not make the eventuality of disruption something we proactively plan for and fund, as opposed to something we struggle to deal with after a decade or two of denial.
Where will the money come from? Well, again, as with a household budget, there might be some things that could be reduced. We might suggest a good place to start would be better management of defense funding that provides big profits to a privileged few contractors, but that’s another editorial.
In a 2015 opinion essay, "U.S. needs to modernize schools," by U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a new model for teaching high school students pairs companies with tech schools to prepare a new and future generation of workers. They write:
“In Brooklyn, Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) is a unique arrangement among IBM, the City University of New York and the New York City Department of Education. This six-year high school allows students to graduate with a high school diploma, an associate's degree and the industry experience they need to compete for high-demand jobs. They also have 'first in line' preference for employment with IBM. It's precisely the kind of innovative approach needed to compete in the 21st century economy.”
This is a good direction for young, soon-to-be workers. For displaced older workers, this is where providing a taxpayer-funded safety net composed of assistance, training, health care and other services to allow them time to re-imagine their careers, chart a new course or update skills in their current fields would go a long way to quell the fear and anger of those who feel they have no recourse. It could mean the difference between facing the future with doom and facing it with hope and excitement.
Those who are able to face the future with a sense of optimism don't organize into an angry, blaming electorate. And fear-mongering politicians are unable, then, to rally Americans around anger — and around "the others," locally or globally, that they blame for their plight.
The point is, we must rethink and retrain and, without proposing more magical thinking, greet a new future with optimism and a sense of adventure. And as a society, we should support funding those in towns and communities that have been disrupted.
As Americans, it is not our habit to be defeatist. But that is what this election has begun to promote.
Rather, this is a country where new beginnings are meant to provide opportunity for all. Let’s cast our votes for those who we believe will uphold that great American tradition.