Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One Worker Not Left Behind

MSNBC had a lengthy story on the arguments behind worker retraining just the other day, and they focused on a couple of guys from Michigan, citing the efforts we have made here with No Worker Left Behind, as well as some of the other programs out there like the ones found at Focus: Hope in Detroit. It's quite extensive, as they run through the various pros and cons behind the idea at a national level. Take a look if you are so inclined. It's very good.

One line jumped out at me. A University of Chicago professor made the argument that the money spent for retraining displaced workers would be better spent on the young, and then he had the audacity to say that training is a "total failure … Its return is ZERO." That's a direct cut-and-paste from his e-mail for the article apparently, the all-capital treatment of that word.

Cold. And you know it's not ZERO. There are thousands of people that have successfully found work from the training they have received, not just here, but other states as well. It's not going to work for everyone, true. But it is well worth the money for this country to do what we can do to get people back on the job, if they want to make this effort.

Here's the story of one I know personally. We'll call him Bill, just because he's going to get political on you here, and I don't want to hang him out on that. I met Bill during my short stint at Steelcase, and back then he was talking about going back to school. A former GM worker, he had taken a buyout some time ago, and was tired of the temp life and jobs that went nowhere. So, back he went. We've kept in touch through e-mail over the past couple years, and I've followed his progress through his courses. Hey, school is tough, but he got through it with flying colors.

Well, he graduated this year. And immediately got out there and start applying. Here is the news I received just the other day, as he was going through the process of interviewing with a major name employer. I was talking about Governor Granholm's book, and this is what he had to say, unbidden on the issue of training. Another direct cut and paste from an e-mail, coming from the flip side of that so-smart professor...

I'd like to see that book that Granholm wrote. I still give her and Obama many thanks for the opportunity I have had to restart the last ten years of my working life. I was looking at doing menial sweat shop jobs making no more than 13 dollars an hour. Ever. At least now I have a good shot at getting a decent wage with benefits and non miserable working conditions. Doing something with an intellectual challenge to it. Any Republicans in office would not have allowed that; as a matter of fact the comments I've gotten from Repubs when I said I was going back to school and they basically said it was a waste of resources to re-educate someone so old. Whatever. Now I can start paying decent income taxes and social security taxes again. I can be a contributing member of society again. I'm looking forward to it. All because of these forward thinking Pols. Any chance you get to speak to her, Thank her for me. Like I said, I don't have the job yet, but it's looking pretty good.

I'm happy to report he got the job, and he starts next week. When I asked if I could write his story up, this is what he said:

Absolutely you may. Be sure to give credit where it is due though. Without the programs of both Granholm with NWLB and Obama and the easing of pell Grants and student loans I would not have been able to do that. While I never had to use NWLB, it was the inspiration of that program that got me started into thinking I could go back to school and retrain. If you recall, I was checking that out when I met you at Steelcase. The rest of it is due to the great training I got at the GRCC electronics department. Their staff is unequaled in their skill and guidance.

There you have it. One happy retrained camper, glad to be back in the work force. And where there is one, there are thousands.

So, you're wrong, Mr. Professor. We need to do this for our people. As long as Congress is going to keep passing these "free trade" deals, we need the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program to help out where it can. The Senate did pass a trimmed back version of the 2009 expansion, in anticipation of the new deals with Korea, Panama and Columbia. Republicans were insisting on cutting the program; we will see what happens in the House. We need more efforts at the state level as well. Tuition keeps going up; this has got to be made accessible to more folks.

Congrats to my friend Bill - I'm so proud of him for sticking with it, and making it through. Maybe he can afford those World Series tickets for me now.

Share the wealth, right? Am I right? :-)