Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Land of the Unskilled, and Uneducated

Over the last two decades, the United States has permitted its southern border to collapse, permitting as many as ten million Mexicans to illegally enter and settle inside the country. Supporters of this "open borders" policy incessantly parrot the line that this gross violation of US national sovereignty is actually good for the US because it provides a steady stream of young workers that the US would otherwise not have. Of course, what such advocates fail to mention is the quality of the new workers - unskilled. The waves of illegal immigrants from Latin and South America are generally skill-less and uneducated, most barely able to speak English not to mention read it. This means that they end up taking the lowest level jobs in US society, whilst driving poor, unskilled American workers out of those jobs by lowering the wages below sustainable levels. Meanwhile, the truly serious shortage of SKILLED workers in America goes unaddressed, and results in a continuing migration of manufacturing jobs from the US. Massive illegal immigration does nothing to solve America’s growing shortage of skilled workers, and makes the situation even worse by draining educational resources and driving down standards in US schools. But you’ll never hear the pro-immigration crowd mention this.

While some 3.4 million factory jobs have been lost since 1998, the National Association of Manufacturers said employers are now struggling to find enough high-skilled machinists, technicians and engineers to keep production lines humming.

Of more than 800 manufacturers surveyed, 13 percent reported a severe shortage of qualified workers, while 68 percent experienced a moderate shortage.

``The survey exposes a widening gap between the dwindling supply of skilled workers in America and the growing technical demands of the modern manufacturing workplace,'' NAM president John Engler said.

The report, released by NAM, the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte Consulting, found 83 percent of manufacturers were struggling to serve customers because there were not enough qualified workers. Some struggled to produce enough to meet customer demand, while others could not meet targets for productivity or customer service.

And why is the US facing this shortage?

The exodus of baby boomers from the workforce, a negative stereotype of manufacturing and a drop in the number of U.S. students pursuing technical or engineering degrees are fueling the problem, Engler said.

Jeffrey Owens, president of Peoria, Illinois-based Advanced Technology Services, helps manufacturers fill the gap.

``It's a pretty significant problem,'' said Owens, whose 1,500 workers provide factory maintenance for heavy machinery maker Caterpillar Inc. (CAT.N) and industrial and aerospace conglomerate Honeywell International Inc. (HON.N), among others.

``A lot of people are retiring who are extremely talented, good people, and there's nobody coming in behind them ... The younger generation doesn't consider manufacturing a viable career alternative,'' Owens said.

In short, the US public school system has become so incompetent that it can no longer produce skilled workers. US students are eschewing rigorous subjects like engineering or science because they don’t have the underlying skills – a direct result of the thumbed-down curriculum commonly dispensed at American public schools. A primary reason for the falloff in the standards of US education are the large number of minority (non-Asian) students who are unable to keep pace with more demanding coursework. The stark difference in educational attainment between racial groups is both real and consistent. It is also politically unacceptable to public officials and educators who fanatically cling to the notion that racial differences in ability do not exist. Desperate to deny the obvious, they have succeeded in gutting US educational standards over the past twenty years in a vain effort to create curriculum so easy that everyone will pass. Unfortunately for the PC crowd that dominates Amerircan (and increasingly European) educators, the racial gap in educational results (best exemplified by the oft-bemoaned standardized "test score gap") refuses to go away. Meanwhile, American students of all races suffer from an education system that can no longer teach even the essentials, much less the sciences. The situation has become so bad that even some in the mainstream media have taken noticed. Consider this startling article in BusinessWeek (free registration required), which says the unspeakable:

How did the U.S. become the world's largest economy? A key part of the answer is education. Some 85% of adult Americans have at least a high school degree today, up from just 25% in 1940. Similarly, 28% have a college degree, a fivefold gain over this period. Today's U.S. workforce is the most educated in the world.

But now, for the first time ever, America's educational gains are poised to stall because of growing demographic trends. If these trends continue, the share of the U.S. workforce with high school and college degrees may not only fail to keep rising over the next 15 years but could actually decline slightly, warns a report released on Nov. 9 by the National Center for Public Policy & Higher Education, a nonprofit group based in San Jose, Calif. The key reason: As highly educated baby boomers retire, they'll be replaced by mounting numbers of young Hispanics and African Americans, who are far less likely to earn degrees.

Because workers with fewer years of education earn so much less, U.S. living standards could take a dive unless something is done, the report argues. It calculates that lower educational levels could slice inflation-adjusted per capita incomes in the U.S. by 2% by 2020. They surged over 40% from 1980 to 2000.

As America sinks deeper, other countries, especially those in Asia, which have nearly homogeneous populations and deliberately forbid immigration to maintain that homogeneity, are rapidly educating their citizens. India and China already produce far more engineers that the US does, and the situation is only going to get worse

…the Center's projections are especially alarming in light of the startling educational gains so many other countries are achieving. U.S. high school math and reading scores already rank below those of most of the advanced economies in Europe and Asia. Now education is exploding in countries such as China and India. There are nearly as many college students in China as in the U.S. Within a decade, the Conference Board projects, students in such countries will be just as likely as those in the U.S. and Europe to get a high school education. Given their much larger populations, that should enable them to churn out far more college graduates as well. More U.S. white-collar jobs will then be likely to move offshore, warns National Center President Patrick M. Callan. "For the U.S. economy, the implication of these trends is really stark," he says.

Callan's projections are based on the growing diversity of the U.S. population. As recently as 1980, the U.S. workforce was 82% white. By 2020, it will be just 63% white. Over this 40-year span, the share of minorities will double, to 37%, as that of Hispanic workers nearly triples, to 17%. The problem is, both Hispanics and African Americans are far less likely to earn degrees than their white counterparts. If those gaps persist, the number of Americans age 26 to 64 who don't even have a high school degree could soar by 7 million, to 31 million, by 2020. Meanwhile, although the actual number of adults with at least a college degree would grow, their share of the workforce could fall by a percentage point, to 25.5%.

The situation is even worse exactly where you’d expect it to be – in the border states, recipients of so many Hispanic immigrants. Ridiculous federal programs like the especially inane No Child Left Behind Act, promoted so arduously by President Bush, do little to cover the undeniable disintegration of US education.

Even with No Child, backsliding already has happened in Texas, the laboratory President George W. Bush used for the law when he was governor of the state. Why? The Lone Star State's Hispanic population is exploding. Because minority students are far more likely to drop out of high school, Texas now ranks dead last among the 50 states in the percentage of adults who have a high school degree. That's down from 39th in 1990.

Similarly, Texas ranks 35th among the states in the percentage of adults who have a college degree, down from 23rd in 1990. State demographer Steve H. Murdock is telling anyone who will listen that Texas public schools will be 80% minority by 2040, up from 57% in 2000. If the education gap persists, he warns, the income of the average Texas household will fall by $6,500 by 2040, after inflation adjustments -- potentially fueling a spike in poverty, the prison population, and other social problems. "We've been very hard hit," says Murdock.

The situation in Texas will only get worse because Washington has no intention of sealing the US border. This means that Texas and the nation will continue to be flooded with unskilled, uneducated immigrants, whose children will fill public schools, draining already scarce resources in vain efforts to teach them the basics (like English, which an increasing number never really learn). Meanwhile, more advanced subjects like math and science are written out of the curriculum so that public officials can avoid questions about their students’ lousy performance in those fields.

NAM said its survey found significant dissatisfaction among manufacturers with the quality of kindergarten-to-grade 12 education and the dearth of adequate career counseling.

``We must update the image of modern manufacturing in the minds of young people, their parents and educators, and encourage more students to study math and science or follow a technical career path,'' Engler said.

Mr. Engler shouldn’t hold his breath. So long as the Bush administration and Congress permit the invasion of the US and the collapse of education standards, the number of skilled American workers will only fall.