It wasn’t so long ago that some of the Triad’s key industries and stable, working-class jobs required little formal education, but as the area struggles to recover from the absence of former industrial titans, people are quickly discovering a discrepancy between the high-tech, high-paying jobs we are able to attract and the skill sets necessary to the workforce.
With estimated unemployment rates for the area hovering around 10 percent and even more workers suffering from underemployment, it is worse than ironic when job recruiters are forced to pull from outside of the Triad to fill the positions.
When the Winston-Salem City Council approved a $1.8 million incentive package for Inmar, the contrast between those looking for work and available jobs was particularly stark. Inmar committed to hiring 212 new workers for salaried positions of nearly $73,000, but council members said Inmar was just one of several companies struggling to fill available slots with qualified workers outside of the local labor pool.
If the gap between the rich and the poor is growing and people are increasingly finding themselves on the losing end of the equation, adding high-paying positions that residents can’t compete for only reinforces the divide.
The Triad is brimming with stellar higher-education institutions, as Inmar CEO David Mounts noted, explaining that the company partnered with Winston-Salem State University and Wake Forest University for an internship program, and hired students through it.
If the Triad wants to position itself as a center for high-tech, well-paying jobs in the future, it is incumbent that the primary education system reflects these aims.
President Obama and Vice President Biden have both touted this area’s quality community colleges, and local business and political leaders believe Forsyth Tech and Guilford Tech will be instrumental in preparing people for high tech positions in the coming decades.
Yet the clear disconnect between the labor force and available jobs can’t just be solved through retraining and other programs aimed at adult students. If the Triad wants to position itself as a center for high-tech, well-paying jobs in the future, it is incumbent that the primary education system reflects these aims.
The solution isn’t as simple as introducing certain classes into the curriculum, though that may be part of it. It inculdes taking a harder look at why numerous high schools in Forsyth and Guilford counties have such high dropout rates that education researchers recently dubbed them “dropout factories.” Education advocates and activists in the area have railed against the “school-to-prison pipeline,” which they say funnels students of color in particular into the prison-industrial complex.
We’ve figured out how to create jobs — high-paying jobs, too— but not for our residents who need them. We’ve successfully created topranking colleges and high school programs such as the Early College at Guilford, but we haven’t figured out what it takes to keep kids in school and prepare them for the so-called jobs of the future.
Lucky for us, we don’t need to engage with any of these important questions if the Republicans continue to control the state legislature, because their attacks on teachers and public education at every level forces people to spend their time trying to keep their heads above water instead of creating an outline for our future. YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration