Why is there a ‘skills gap’? (5×8 – 10/10/12)

Maybe you should be a welder, the lip synced debate, Livingston meets DeGeneres, stop-and-frisk caught on video, and the day in the marriage-ban debate.


There’s a growing theme that people are unemployed because they don’t have the skills that are needed in today’s jobs workplace. Perhaps that’s because it’s easier than noting that a lot of the jobs in today’s jobs workplace aren’t the jobs a lot of people want to do.

APM’s Marketplace jumps into this with a story about welding. Companies can’t find enough welders. Detroit, it says, has a high unemployment rate, but nobody wants to be a welder. What’s the matter with you people?

The story might provide the answer:

A rookie welder can make $15 an hour. Experienced welders earn more. Harlan Rost worked as a welder for more than 30 years.

“I was making $18 an hour. And that was back in Minnesota in a town that was not noted for high wages,” says Rost.

He loves welding, but the job requires working around poisonous fumes and standing for hours on end.

“Most of the welding jobs take a toll on, usually, the knees and the back,” Rost says.

Rost had to retire when that toll caught up with his body. He would like to keep working. And there is plenty of demand for skilled welders.

Harlan Rost, the onetime Minnesota welder, suggests it’s not a job for the older unemployed person because welding comes with physical disabilities and employers don’t want to put up with any disabilities. That’s not on the workforce; that’s on the employers.

But that’s a different situation than the one profiled by the Star Tribune this week. At the firm in Hugo profiled, it’s not about physical labor, it’s about high-tech skills, and changing the very images of what factory work is in 2012.

KARE says half the high-tech employers in Minnesota can’t find employees…

Why is there a skills gap? Did educators fail to see a changing economy and prepare students for it? Is it the job of schools to train a workforce properly?

The Chronicle of Higher Education says there’s a heated debate between employers and colleges on these and other questions.

One small example of what could be done comes from Minnesota, where CEO’s and college leaders–including Brian C. Rosenberg, president of Macalester College (a liberal-arts institution)–have teamed up to figure out how to better align academic programs with work-force needs.

At the University of Pennsylvania, Cappelli notes that the best students, regardless of major, mostly go on to work at investment banks and consulting firms because they recruit heavily and have intensive training programs (of course, the pay is a big attraction too).

One could argue that those two industries provide important services but not much value to expand the economy for the future. But just imagine if more companies provided the training that the banks and consultants do. Perhaps then we’d have fewer people worrying about the demise of the liberal arts.

Related: As goes Janesville, WI. It’s not that people who are out of work are lazy and don’t want to work, this documentary suggests. They’re just stuck in the middle of a game they can’t control.

Watch As Goes Janesville on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.


Jim Lehrer didn’t do such a bad job.


After her on-air rebuttal of a man who objected to her weight, La Crosse TV anchor Jennifer Livingston picked up a fan in Ellen DeGeneres, who tweeted that she wanted to meet Livingston. This week she got her chance…

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player


Why is it significant when a driver is stopped for an air freshener on the rear-view mirror when it’s really just a pretext for stopping someone who doesn’t look right? Because it’s a pretty small step to the next level. The Nation has obtained video of New York’s controversial stop-and-frisk strategy.

Alvin’s treatment at the hands of the officers may be disturbing but it is not uncommon. According to their own stop-and-frisk data, the NYPD stops more than 1,800 New Yorkers a day. A New York Times analysis recently determined that more than 20 percent of those stops involve the use of force. And these are only the numbers that the Department records. Anecdotal evidence suggests both figures are much higher.

In this video, exclusive to TheNation.com, Alvin describes his experience of the stop, and working NYPD officers come forward to explain the damage stop-and-frisk has done to their profession and their relationship to the communities they serve. The emphasis on racking up stops has also hindered what many officers consider to be the real work they should be doing on the streets. The video sheds unprecedented light on a practice, cheered on by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, that has put the city’s young people of color in the department’s crosshairs.

Language warning!

“The civilian population, they’re being hunted by us,” says an officer. “Instead of being protected by us, they’re being hunted and we’re being hated.”


Colin Schumacher, a Hamline grad, wants his name removed from the list of winners of the John Wesley Leadership Award, which he received in 2003. He wants the school to take a stand against the same-sex marriage ban on November’s ballot. He’s a teacher at PS 364 in Manhattan now and has written an explanation today on Huffington Post.

In 2003, the same year that I received the Wesley award, I helped organize a ceremony commemorating the 40th Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” In the letter, King expresses his frustration with the “white moderate” who consistently placed their fears regarding political will and expedient measures of direct action above a moral obligation to end racial injustice. But as King notes, “oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.” In other words, there will come a time in which political will aligns with moral obligation.

At this moment in time, the Hamline Board of Trustees may believe that the political will for marriage equality does not yet exist in Minnesota and a stance against the amendment may translate into losses in funding from conservative donors. Members of the board, who are major donors themselves, may be leveraging their position — calling only for “civil discourse” and “civic engagement” — to protect a contradiction between their personal beliefs and the university’s stated values. These fears are not becoming for a university that has prided itself, since its early founding, on a”pioneering spirit” and “inclusive traditions and values.”

Meanwhile, this audio recording raises old questions, including whether businesses can afford to take a stand on political issues? It was posted by Treehouse Records and is said to be a message left on the store’s voicemail…

Bonus I: Coincidence? From the Boston Globe: “The owners of New England Compounding Center, the Framingham company at the heart of a nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis, also own a related pharmacy in Westborough, one of whose executives is a board member and former president of the state agency that regulates pharmacies.”

Bonus II: First World problems.

Bonus III: On brothers…

Bonus IV: If you move into an area, do you have some sort of obligation to become a fan of the local sports team?


Even though recent polls show that undecided voters are a small percentage of likely voters, their votes could be enough to tip races one way or another. Today’s Question: In two sentences, how would you sway an undecided voter to vote for your candidate in the presidential contest?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Why your 20’s matter. (Rebroadcast)

Second hour: How women are becoming the breadwinners. (Rebroadcast)

Third hour: Kerri’s conversation with Time Magazine columnist Joel Stein about his book “Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity.” (Rebroadcast)

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): First District congressional debate between Tim Walz and Allen Quist. Moderated by Gary Eichten.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie. Romney rides a post-debate bump while the Obama camp reboots. Vice president Joe bidden and Paul Ryan promise to liven things up on Thursday. And big bird hits weekend update, but begs out of an Obama campaign ad.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Fifty years ago, Vatican II sparked a revolution among Catholic nuns. For some American nuns, Vatican II brought freedoms. But some felt the Sisters went too far. Controversies started a half a century ago are still playing out today. NPR looks at Vatican II and the nuns.