What?! Us Train Our People?!

Today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch reports the lament of the Associated General Contractors of Virginia that its members are having a hard time finding qualified workers in the building trades, such as plumber, welders, and HVAC technicians. Almost half of the members said “one reason is that the employment pipeline in their communities for training skilled workers is poor.”

Their recommended solution: “increased funding for career and technical education for community and career college students to qualify for federal Pell grants.” Wow! These guys sound like the caricatures of Democrats often seen on Bacon’s Rebellion—more government spending.

What happened to the concept that companies did their own training with apprenticeship programs? Unions offer training and apprenticeship programs, but, of course, we don’t like unions in Virginia.

These contractors could learn a lot from the director of the Capital Construction Unit of the Department of Corrections. That unit consists of inmates who complete numerous construction projects within the prison system, such as roof repair and replacement, masonry work, and basic carpentry framing and dry wall installation. Their work results in significant savings for the Commonwealth.  The director of the unit told me that, in the past, he could usually get inmates with some experience in construction trades, but that is not the case now. Now, most of the inmates he selects have no background or training in construction to the point that some have probably never held a hammer in their hands. Therefore, he trains them.

In the same vein, I was astounded a few years ago when I learned that Southside Virginia Community College offered a course in utility pole climbing and line installation. C’mon Dominion, you can’t afford to train your line workers?

Oh, by the way, another recommendation of the AGC: Allow more immigrants to enter the country.

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16 responses to “What?! Us Train Our People?!”

  1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    This makes me sick to my stomach. Crony capitalism at its worst. Business can expect workers to have a basic education and probably some career-focused classes. But job-specific training needs to come from businesses. It’s part of the cost of doing business. And if you cannot get the quality of employees that you want, raise the pay.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    Hey Dick – you keep this up and the’re gonna revoke your BR “small govt” credenitals!

    Seriously – you are honing in on an important issue involving government and the private sector!

    So yes, why indeed, should taxpayers be paying to train workers for private sector for-profit companies!

    And everyknows that if the private sector pays for that training that it will be a whole lot more efficient and cost effective than if us taxpayers were paying a bunch of leftist higher ed administrators and professors who shut down conservative “free speech and charge and arm and a leg for tution…!!!

    So why doesn’t the private sector train their folks? Good Question!

  3. vaconsumeradvocate Avatar

    I believe the Southside CC course is part of a package of training developed with the electric cooperatives. The cooperative is nonprofit and owned by its members. Any extra earnings gets returned to members/rate payers.

    Even at a research university, these days there are a lot of expectations that we produce students ready to go into the workforce and programs that prepare folks for specific job areas are especially valued.

  4. djrippert Avatar

    No company should be able to write or enforce a non-compete unless it can clearly document that it spends 5% or more of revenues on employee training. Are you listening General Assembly?

  5. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    I’m sorry. Have I misunderstood the point of community colleges and high school CTE programs for the past 50 years? I thought their job prep goal was something we all supported. Guess you’d all close them? I haven’t seen the contractor statement but if existing building trades programs are full, and demand exists still, isnt that a market signal? From the start these programs have tried to coordinate with employers. You want more English majors instead? I for one am glad trained tradesmen don’t go to prison….Dick, I think that says few young men learn any of this from dads or uncles anymore (sorry, moms can teach job skills, too.)

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Good point, Steve. I will need to rethink my rant. (It won’t be the first time that I have had to do that.) At the very least, folks who get upset about government spending should remember that, in some cases such as this, government activity has assumed some of the costs that used to fall on the private sector. (I know–government spending that benefits me is good; other spending is bad.)

      Maybe more relevant to some of the discussions we have been having is the point underlined by this article–there is an unmet demand out there for folks with skills other than those picked up in college.

      1. Steve Haner Avatar
        Steve Haner

        Actually, I suspect there is a shortage of young people interested. Hard work is out of favor. Most of these programs are cooperative, employer or association and the community college or local CTE program. But remember who “owns” skills once acquired. The worker.

  6. Dick makes a fair point. Is the AGC, in effect, calling for corporate welfare?

    Needless to say, I oppose corporate welfare in all its forms. But, to respond to an issue Steve raises, what is job training in the community colleges but a form of corporate welfare? One could ask, what is engineering school and business school but a form of corporate welfare?

    The question I’d like to throw out is this: Where do we draw the line. What constitutes “education” that the public can legitimately subsidize and what constitutes “job training” that corporations should take over?

  7. djrippert Avatar

    This is what you get when you subsidize rural Virginia. An HVAC repairman or repairwoman in Virginia makes a median salary of $49,970 per year. The average income for a FAMILY in Lee County is $40,721 per year. So, if Mom or Dad can land one of these available HVAC repair jobs they get a 20% increase in money. If both land such jobs they are making almost $100,000 per year.

    Central Virginia Community College in Lynchburg, VA advertises an HVAC career studies certificate for $3,234. That’s four months of the increase in pay between the median family income in Lee County and the median HVAC salary across the state.

    How much does the state of Virginia spend on subsidies, on a per capita basis, in rural Virginia? I’m guessing it’s more than the cost of HVAC training. So, the state will lend anyone living in one of Virginia’s many rural welfare counties the money to get HVAC certified and will forgive the loan if they (and their immediate family) move to a surplus location for at least 10 years.


  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    If we have qualms about subsidizing Community College – what about 4 year college?

    Isn’t this another form of “socialism”?

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Only if you steal all their wages in taxes, Larry. Then it’s socialism. I have no problem with the student and the state share the cost.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Steve – it’s not socialism to take money from me to send others to school – even if the student shares some of the cost? What about the part taxpayers pay for?

        In other words, the idea that we take money from all taxpayers to pay for education for any/all students – now doesn’t that sound like socialism?

        If you support this basic concept does that make you a “leftist” ? 😉 Isn’t this the classic wealth transfer we hear about here in BR?

        AND there is that pesky “opportunity cost” where if I could have kept that money myself, I would have found a better, more productive use of it, right?

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        Steve – not even in uber socialist countries do they keep ALL of your wages – and that’s according to Conservatives who label various other countries including most of the other developed ones like France, Norway, etc as “socialist” because they provide universal health care and some level of free college, and trains, etc.

        So all of these things they provide – they pay for with taxes so is that a “subsidy” or socialism or what?

        And if we also take taxes from folks and provide bus service for others – is THAT subsidies and/or socialism?

        These are honest questions because I hear both terms – subsidies and socialism used in similar contexts in BR especially in discussions about universal health care and nationwide rail systems that are not “self-supporting” .

        We have an amiable group here in BR that can and does discuss issues with civility so can we chew on this issue a bit?

        1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          So move to some other country. And if things are so bad here, why are people violating the law to get here?

          I paid for my own college and law school, making $2 and something per hour. I helped my wife pay off the last of her student loans and financed, with my wife, my two kids’ college. Now I’m supposed to pay higher taxes to fund everyone who wants to go to college. Try working. Try giving up vacations (I worked all week during my spring vacations). Don’t buy a $1000 cell phone. Work harder in school and graduate in four years. Hell, I had a friend who did it in three. I almost pulled it off in 3 1/2 years.

          Let’s change the Virginia tax code and add higher brackets for those residents who want bigger, better government. Pay for it.

          As far as health insurance is concerned, we have Obamacare and expanded Medicaid. What more? I regard anyone trying to take employer-provided health care as a thief.

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    employer-provided health care is socialism.

    1. – the money used to purchase it is not taxed unlike income spent on other things and unlike the money spent on ObamaCare.

    2..- with employer-provided insurance – EVERYONE pays the same price for coverage – that’s a govt rule.

    2.- It’s the govt who REQUIRES employer-provided health insurance to cover pre-existing conditions – for EVERYONE. That’s socialism. In a REAL free-market, insurance companies don’t have to cover you and/or can charge you more – and again, it’s the government that requires that – it’s an inherently socialist concept.

  10. LarrytheG Avatar

    In a non-socialist country – the government would have no role in insurance of any kind including health insurance.

    It would be purely a transaction between someone who wanted it and a company who sells it and the price of it and who could get it and who caould be denied it – would be purely up to the company selling it, not the government.

    When the government sets rules for insurance – that’s socialism.

    I know folks don’t like to think that – but it’s more true than not.

    Anytime the government sets the rules for something in the market – it’s no longer a real “free market” and if the reason the govt sets those rules is to “help” people – that’s essentially socialism.

    Give the GOP credit for the fact that many of them would actually do away with forcing insurance to cover pre-existing conditions – give them demerits for not coming out and admitting it and playing word games with citizens to deceive them into thinking they would support protection of pre-existing conditions.

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