Education: Pathway to Economic Prosperity

Op-Ed by Ravi Yalamanchi

CEO’s of big Corporations and business groups are pushing immigration reform for US to give more visas for foreign workers. Governor Snyder supports immigration to highly educated students from foreign countries. Why the big push? Because companies are unable to fill jobs that require high skill sets. With unemployment at 7.9% nationally and 8.9% in Michigan and about 1.75 million graduating from college every year, yet companies are unable to fill jobs with high skill sets.

The US is failing when it comes to education. Harvard University’s recent Education Next survey found that of the nation’s public school 54% got a C, 20% got a B, and 1% got an A, while 25% got an “F” or a “D”. American students rank 25th in Math, 17th in Science and 14th in reading in international exams. Huntington Post’s Education Olympics: How does America Rank Compared To Other Countries? Indicated, that while the US is the highest recipient of Olympic gold medals, it would receive no medals in education Olympics: with Gold going to Great Britain, Silver going to Japan, and Bronze going to Germany. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development US ranks 22nd out of 27 developed countries in high school graduation.

So what are the implications of this data? More high paying jobs will be going out of US or bringing in foreigners to fill the jobs. And low paying jobs will be the ones that our workforce will have to aspire.

Education is a powerful tool for individual development and creating communities that are prosperous. Education is tied to the economic strength and national security of our nation. To have a strong middle class, we need to develop an educated skilled workforce. Gone are the days when people walked, with less than a high school diploma, to the gates of a plant and were instantly hired to work on the assembly line that paid $25 an hour. Today a minimum education of a two year associates degree with strong computing, math and technology skills are required to qualify for a manufacturing job which pays about $16 an hour. Forty years ago working on an assembly line meant working with hands but today it means knowing technology and working with robots.

A good friend of mine, who is a recruiter for the Tool and Die industry, shared with me jobs that pay an hourly rate of $18 to $22 and he is unable to find qualified individuals. We have lost manufacturing and high tech jobs to other nations and now finding people for construction and technical trade jobs is getting difficult.

We should aim as a nation to be number one again in education. This can be done. We have resources, technology, skilled teachers and professors, and world-class universities. Our K-12 program should get better. The development of a successful education system requires active engagement from parents, teachers, local schools, Community Colleges, Universities, and businesses. Public schools should offer trade skill training in Junior and Senior years and summer internships in partnership with Chambers, businesses, government and non-profits. Every student should be assisted with career pathways before leaving high school.

Too many young people are not entering into college because of high costs of education and if they go to college are leaving college with student loans ranging from $50,000 to $100,000.  Graduates are often compelled to spend a lifetime paying off these debts. A two-year Associate Degree is a great start for a young student entering the workforce or continuing to any one of the Universities for a four year degree as well as for adults seeking to get retrained in a different field. Affordable education is the pathway to a successful economic future. By providing students with 21st century technical skills and the tools necessary to succeed, we can effectively equip them to be a part of a strong, successful workforce that can fill 21st century jobs.

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