Lesson Learned: Better Education Required

February 6, 2004
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Parents across Michigan last week were sent the state “education” bureaucracy’s belated grades of public schools, along with apologies and explanations for what likely then becomes an example of the futility of such meaningless work costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

The most infuriating aspect of the grading debacle is that the news is cast against no less than five weeks of Business Journal reports over and again restating the importance of K-12 education quality, and economists across the state who repeatedly stress the need for job training and re-training programs.

Certainly a part of the latter is cast by a failing educational system now decades in denial and to which we can assign a large portion of the current detriment.

Cascade Engineering Chairman and CEO Fred Keller has suggested the business community might best serve those with training and education needs (at the adult level) and could likely do so, not for state payment, but in some abatement or credit of Michigan’s business taxes. The brilliance of such a suggestion shines in the fact that the efficiencies of the business community are far greater than state or educational bureaucracies, and is founded in the fact that business best understands the training need and can target those training programs.

The message was quite clear last week during the economic summit of local manufacturers at Aquinas College. Grand Rapids Spring & Stamping Chairman Jim Zawacki candidly remarked, “Education doesn’t want to listen.”

Government dooms itself in a vicious cycle of its own making. Another 6 million jobs are forecast to be lost by the end of this decade as a fundamental change occurs. Zawacki said 30 percent to 50 percent of all auto suppliers would be out of business by 2010.

Monarch Hydraulics Inc. Chairman John Jackoboice emphasized, “We have become incredibly lean and far more productive, and what we need to do is to continue to sustain that and that’s going to be through continuous innovation and research and development in this country.”

Research and development, innovation, technology advances — all are crucial to manufacturing sector businesses, and even those jobs are moving offshore for lack of an interested or skilled labor force.

Grand Valley State University Seidman School of Business Economics Chair Hari Singh reiterated in the Jan. 26 issue of Grand Rapids Business Journal that what this region needs most is a massive job training program, a combination of traditional classroom, vocational training and on-the-job training.

Perhaps Zawacki offered the best idea during the summit: He jokingly suggested we start exporting politicians.    

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