Will a $25 billion wall keep Americans working?

President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence tour a Carrier plant in Indianapolis, Dec. 1, 2016. Trump appeared with workers at the plant to tell of his success in saving at least 1,000 jobs from moving to Mexico. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

President Donald Trump wants to build a wall between Mexico and the United States projected to cost $25 billion to stem illegal immigration and protect American-born workers. The wall is the No. 1 priority on the White House immigration principles released Sunday night.

Would that be money well spent?

The White House press is reporting neither party is likely to endorse that level of funding for a wall to stem illegal immigration. I will leave that debate aside to focus on a question more relevant to an education blog: If the goal is the protection of American workers, could we better spend that $25 billion elsewhere, such as on training and education?

I attended a forum last week on the future of work sponsored by the Atlantic magazine. One of the most interesting comments came from a journalist who delved into the decision by Carrier Corp. to phase out 1,400 low- to midgrade manufacturing jobs at its Indianapolis production facilities and move them to Mexico for an expected annual savings of $65 million.

The company’s plan drew heavy press coverage because Trump intervened and said his negotiations with Carrier saved many of the jobs.  However, layoffs continue; Carrier is in the process of eliminating 632 positions this year.

Journalist Joan Lynch of Working Nation and her team spent time with Carrier workers in the aftermath of the layoff news. Here is what she told the audience at the Atlantic forum about the rapid rate of change and the adaptability required of older workers hoping to survive in the new economy:

We spent a lot of time with the Carrier workers, with folks in City Hall, with the unions and with the organizations that were brought in to bring new programs to re-skill some of these folks. And one of the things I found to be the most interesting is that there are jobs in Indianapolis. There are good jobs in Indianapolis.

With some retraining, these folks could move directly into them. But what was disturbing to us is that a large majority of people that we talked to were more comfortable with the idea of being unemployed than being retrained.

And as we dug into that — because that is kind of jaw dropping  — what they were really saying is the words ‘education,’ ‘training,’ ‘technology,’ ‘skills’ – they hear ‘coding’ all the time when you have to learn something new — that scared them to the point where they just said, ‘I can’t do it. I am not ready for that.’

Lynch’s recommendation was recasting the retraining process as enjoyable rather than intimidating.

If we change the dialogue and we change the story, we can say things like, ‘Do you like to play video games?’ So many of the jobs of the future have changed and are technological in a fun way and we have been able, through our work on the ground, to get a lot of people into this idea that, ‘Wow, my community college offers that and I didn’t know it would be fun and interesting and it wouldn’t be like my 12th grade biology class.’

As someone with friends and family members facing re-education in fast-changing professions, many contend they’re not interested in starting over. They are choosing retirement or buyouts because they don’t want to go back to the classroom at age 55. Is that unreasonable?

Lynch and other speakers agreed that industry and educational institutions such as community colleges must collaborate. “Just because you  have a degree doesn’t mean you won’t need a credential down the line. I do believe education is not a ladder any more; it is a lattice,” she said.

According to Lynch, community colleges and businesses have to hold clear conversations about the available jobs in the area and how a school can best prepare students for them. “In general, that collaboration has to lay out that, ‘Here are the credentials that are going to be helpful for you in this particular field,’ instead of the more general, ‘Take these five classes and you’ll be good for this field.’ It doesn’t work that way any more,” she said.

While there’s a great deal of discussion in education today about credentials, there’s not a lot of research on value or longtime benefits. Workers have to invest time and money into earning such credentials.  Credentials in high-need areas —  IT, construction, manufacturing and health care — appear to pay off, but how about other industries?

What we don’t know:

•Does the value of industry-recognized credentials vary across industries and  local labor markets?

•Should colleges design credential programs around a specific employer’s needs? What if that employer decides to relocate to Mexico? In that instance, haven’t students paid to learn job skills no longer in demand in their community? Isn’t that the historic argument for the broad-based education approach embraced by four-year colleges?

•Does getting a credential compensate for a lack of education and work experience?

•Do students who did poorly in high school but eventually earn a credential fare well in the job market? Or, are there vital soft skills that have to be present — persistence, work ethic, punctuality — to undergird any credential? An employer made the comment to me that his experience showed young people who blew off high school don’t then become stellar workers because they earned a credential. “The same deficits that hurt them in high school — not showing up, not following through, not asking questions — hurt them on the job,” the employer told me.

Your thoughts?

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

11 comments
readcritic
readcritic

We do not need a wall. We just need to stop our self-serving, vote mongering politicians from giving away our country. The illegals would not be so inclined to come here and stay if they weren't granted more freedoms, rights, and entitlements than actual taxpaying citizens. How many illegals/border jumpers would be willing to serve in our military as a means to earning citizenship?!! How many are made to repay our government (the taxpayers) for their many years of "FREE" education in American grade schools and colleges? Repayment from all future earnings should be a requirement as part of the DACA citizenship process. It is just too easy and convenient for illegals who come here and stay. Birthright citizenship (anchor baby laws) also further diminishes our financial base. The middle class worker pays the heaviest price as he has the least spendable cash left after being taxed to be everyone's else's keeper.

William1952
William1952

Maybe we should hire Latinos to build that wall. They are not afraid of work, work very hard, and can finish it in no time. But, it certainly would be to their advantage to be standing on the north side when they get through.

alt2AJC
alt2AJC

@William1952 

Maybe you should examine your racist attitude about work, workers and the law.

meno
meno

Kind of interesting that nobody on this board is criticizing these laid-off Trump voters as lazy parasites unwilling to help themselves.  I could imagine how different it would be if the above narrative involved, say, African Americans unwilling to take advantage of available education opportunities and instead were content to be pacified by self-serving leaders telling them to always blame others for their plight.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

With an estimated ANNUAL cost of over $120 billion to Americans due to illegal immigration, $25 Billion sounds like a no brainer.  Build the wall already.

Starik
Starik

@Lee_CPA2  Propaganda. There is a cost for illegal immigration, but a greater benefit. 

ElderSage
ElderSage

We already spend plenty on education. We just need to teach useful things instead of art history, we need to get rid of the assistant principals and fire teachers who cannot teach. The wall is a much better investment than more assistant principals.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

" If the goal is the protection of American workers, could we better spend that $25 billion elsewhere, such as on training and education?"


There's a project that someone wants to get done somewhere for something. That project will cost X dollars. Is there a way that those X dollars could be better spent on education? 


That works! On anything! Fighter jets. Fluoridation. Flood control. Highway maintenance. Veterans benefits. Criminal Justice. Fighting forest fires.  


Everything, absolutely everything costs money and is thus ALSO about education. Brilliant.

alt2AJC
alt2AJC

It can surprise no one when the education establishment suggests self-serving programs which benefit it directly, even proposing that illegals be granted instate tuition to maximize the burden on taxpayers.

But in what other modern country are migrants allowed to determine immigration policy? 

President Trump won 30 of the 50 states, including Georgia, by promising to build a wall and to enforce our existing immigration laws. Hillary Clinton lost by promising open borders.

Physical walls work perfectly for Israel, and they are the one thing which the next Democrat president won't be able to cancel on Day One by executive order.

Furthermore, making E-Verify mandatory will guarantee it's American workers and construction trainees who complete the wall.

Starik
Starik

@alt2AJC  We need the immigrants, including the "illegals." There aren't enough reliable workers without them. 

bu22
bu22

@Starik @alt2AJC  States with limited illegals do fine.  Try going to New Hampshire or Maine and look at who does what the illegals do here.  They just pay more for those occupations.