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July 7, 2015

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letter to the editor:

Nevada workforce poorly educated

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Regarding J. Patrick Coolican’s Oct. 24 column:

Are Coolican and the Las Vegas Sun the only ones in the Las Vegas Valley who understand there will be “no here here” again until we repopulate the community with an educated workforce who can speak in complete sentences; understand the purposes of a paragraph in writing; and can add, subtract, multiply and divide numbers less than one and more than 100?

His column, “We won’t fulfill Romney’s dream,” is on point. Regarding construction — with the exception of some remodeling, upgrades and additions to resort properties — the industry is virtually dead.

Those surviving are working elsewhere.

The 21st century economy needs learned people for jobs in technology, business and commerce.

Blue-collar and white-collar employers today seek knowledgeable workers, people who can learn continuously and relearn for tomorrow’s emerging needs.

According to a 2011 report published by the Education Alliance of Washoe County, “Although Nevada has one of the best business tax climates in the nation, its economy is in crisis with the highest unemployment rate, lowest rate of job growth and a falling GDP.”

The report goes on to state that Nevada has one of the least-educated adult populations in the nation — we rank 49th in college graduates and last in eighth-grade reading performance. As for best states for business, the report says a CNBC study ranks Nevada 47th.

If we want our community to move toward prosperity, preparing youngsters for parking cars ain’t going to cut it.

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  1. I read recently that Nevada ranks 51st in high school graduation rates. Not a stellar statistic, and not a surprise. As the writer states, flipping cards and parking cars are not the jobs to aspire too anymore. What's the answer? I don't know. Throwing more good money after bad doesn't seem to be working does it. What do the young people of this state want out of their working lives? What are their aspirations, their goals, their plans? Do they even care about education, or are they content to continue filling jobs in our service based economy, making survival wages with little or no future for themselves.

  2. I watched the 60 Minutes report on Sunday where they talked about all these jobs that employers could not fill. The company they focused on offered jobs at $ 12.00 an hour. That's what I paid people in their 20's to work a telephone help desk in the early 1990's.

    And therein lies a big part of our problem, in this state and most others. You can live on $ 12.00 an hour in 2012, but you are going to live a lousy life. It's expensive to live here and getting more expensive all the time. $ 12.00 an hour jobs are not going to cut it.

    Good jobs that pay a decent living wage are very hard to come by. Americans want inexpensive everything and that means imported goods and services, and that means a deficit of good paying jobs and lots of low paying jobs.

    If Americans want back an economy with more and higher paying jobs, they are going to have to be willing to pay more for goods and services made here instead of in a foreign country with a standard of living far below what we have here.

    We can educate our people for the 'jobs of the future', but if we aren't willing to pay more for goods and services produced here, those 'jobs of the future' will all be somewhere that isn't America.


  3. Michael

    There used to be career path choices offered in High School. One could place emphasis on learning a trade, or pursue "College Prep" courses.

    There used to be well paid Union trades jobs available to those who did not see a College education as an alternative. Union jobs meant higher pay, and a comfortable middle class life. Those days are pretty much gone. College grads can't find jobs and are saddled with debt upon graduation.

    For the long term unemployed, a job at $12 an hour is better than no job. It's a start, and they can try to achieve a better paying job through training and/or further education.

    Good paying Union jobs forced non-union businesses to pay better wages to compete for workers, which "raised everybody's boat". Sadly, Union workers are in an ever diminishing minority, and as a result, wages in this country have stagnated or been reduced to levels not seen since 1988. Even joining the Military as part of a career path is in jeopardy, as the Military is now having trouble finding candidates who can pass the Military entrance exams! Sad commentary on our pathetic education system, not only here, but all over the United States.

  4. When you have an economy based mainly on gaming-tourism and gold mining, you are vulnerable to just what has happened to us. Add to that the fact that gaming continues to spread to other States and Indian Reservations and you have a perfect storm for Nevada.

    We prospered for years on growth. But we have uncovered the truth of the fairy tale that "growth pays for itself". The music has stopped and Nevada does not have a chair.

    We have tried for years, with limited success, to diversify Nevada's economy with the lure of low taxes. But any company worth attracting can see beyond our low taxes to all the State's unmet needs ranging from education to mental health.

    If we won't invest in ourselves, no one else will.

  5. Casler, there is a simple solution. You, and your like-minded friends, pool your resources, open businesses and pay more per hour - say, 25 bucks. That's take care of the problem, won't it? Nonsense. Being an ex-employer, I know something about what it takes to survive and succeed. You don't pay double the going rate so you feel-good-about-yourself. Not if you want to compete. And, you, as a prospective employee, don't get paid more unless you are worth more. How does on get to be "worth more?" Again, simple. Through education and/or developing marketable skills. Developing marketable skills can be done on the job. Ever notice how many stock boys rose to be CEO of the company? Casler, you offer pie-in-the-sky opinions which lead to nowhere. As for our education "crisis," it will never get better as long as the teachers union has a stranglehold on "education." It's long past time to S**t can the model and open it to competition. Vouchers and charter schools. Parents deserve the right to make the decision as to where their kids are educated - not some fumbling, bumbling, pencil-pushing, unelected, unaccountable bureacratic drone. It's time for parents who really care to rise up and tear down the wall that separates their children from a good education! The rich do! They send their kids to the finest private schools money can buy. That goes for both politicians and business leaders. Who's left out? One guess!

  6. Market forces should always prevail. The best and brightest among the employees ultimately get the best and most promising paying jobs. Economics pay the going wages: Higher for those with needed esoteric skills and lower pay for those who don't. Then, intrusive government and organized labor step in and throw a monkey wrench in the process. Think Obamacare and union dues.


  7. The problem is the CLASS of people, be it mental or physical. People with class, have a mindset of quality and will demand it, no matter what their financial status at the time is.

    Commenter Jerry Fink, illustrates this point, "It's time for parents who really care to rise up and tear down the wall that separates their children from a good education! The rich do!" A child CAN have a quality education through a Nevada public school IF the parent/guardian/caregiver is INVOLVED, and is actively insistant both at home and at school. They actively support and cultivate a rich learning environment at home, and also actively support it for when the child is at school, by being involved in the classroom, PTA, and school site. It is not enough to tell your children to get the best education. As a parent, YOU must be actively making sure that happens.

    UNenforced immigration has adversely impacted our educational system. With nearly half of Nevada (the Western USA for that matter), being populated by those from 3rd world countries only coming here for opportunity, not coming here with STANDARDS applied to them, what can we expect? They bring their values and low level of education (and expectations) with them.

    Not to be forgotten in this equation, is the segment of our American society who were born into families who are down on their luck,and those who have been generational recipients of public assistance, aka Welfare. Our educational system offers them the same opportunity, but the real outcome is usually decided by their support at home (something educators have NO power over).

    Part 1 of 2
    Blessings and Peace,

  8. lvfacts101

    I'll bet working for you was a real "treat".

  9. @Rev 5:09am....If you are going to cite sources as support for your argument, the sources should support the argument. If California is 50th and Nevada is 12th then California companies should be moving here, especially given location and transportation links. However they are not, and they are not moving in any significant numbers to Texas either. "Smokestack chasing", the tactic that you suggest, is a poor economic development strategy, rarely attracting anything other than bottom-feeders seeking to maximize public investment via tax breaks, "training" grants, infrastructure improvements, etc. Quite often the so-favored company is gone within five years. Better for communities and states to work on their strengths and nurture home-grown industry.

  10. Part 2 of 2 Continued:
    Over the years, we have seen a blurring of what is right and what is wrong. This has happened, in part, to our rush to be indiscriminately diverse, not applying known standards to ALL for employment or/and educational admittance to institutions. Some might start with EOE. We all know how that is doing for our country now. Being mandated to fill ethnical quotients. Dare I go there? We all want equal opportunity, but in this process, there should be the same standards of quality. Some of you older folks, may be seeing the same thing I see here.

    It was upsetting to watch that 60 Minutes expose' about how lacking Nevada is. They focused on those who did not go to college, did not earn a degree, but rather, those who had no aspirations as youth, probably no upbringing nor family support. Nevada has college graduates who are successful and employed, but 60 Minutes slanted the report to suit their needs. That was shameful.

    How can this be changed? First, by ENforcing immigration laws already on the books. Revisit EOE laws, ammend them to fix the disparity in standards, so that potential applicants know they MUST meet standards, not get a free pass for access. In Nevada, our Lawmakers need to put ENforcement teeth in the Clark County School's PARENT/TEACHER/STUDENT INVOLVEMENT ACCORD, to make it more than being a lip-service pledge document signed yearly at taxpayer expense. By having ENforcement, you will see better education as an outcome. Isn't that what we all want?

    Blessings and Peace,

  11. It all starts with the parents. These days too many parents don't parent. That's society today and it's most likely irreversible. Pouring more money into education is futile.

  12. Larry.

    What you write makes it sound like there are 45 million jobs available where 80 % of them pay more than 45 K per year. The statistics don't bare that out. Many of those former well paying jobs don't exist anymore. I AM a business owner and not only could I not afford to pay anyone 25 dollars an hour, my wife and I are the only employees we have and she does not take a salary. Why? Not enough business. Why? Too many people struggling with their finances.

    You are talking like it is still 1995. It isn't.


  13. Gary,

    I think your view, like Larry's just isn't very valid anymore. Unions could push up wages when the competition was other companies based here in the US, some unionized and some not. Now, the competition is in foreign countries, in places with a much lower standard of living, much lower wages and few unions. All unions here can do now is raise wages....until the jobs go overseas.

    That's not a long term solution.


  14. Wrong again. If and when we have the jobs, the educated workforce will be here. We have millions of unemployed, educated, potential workers. PART of the problem is we are not TRAINING blue-collar workers. No one argues that those seeking jobs need basic skills--showing up on time, pleasant conversation skills, good understanding of the language. And depending on the type of work, it's a real plus to be able to PROPERLY construct a sentence. But all this can be learned in high school, if only K-12 wasn't broken beyond repair. We need to stop dumping endless funding into K-12 and higher ed when the return on investment has been negative, so negative. Now they're trying to sell us into paying for higher ed for out-of-state and illegal students--so they can keep the machine going--for the financial benefit of the "educators."

  15. Roberta,

    Training is part of the problem and so is the education system. We can't fix the education system with more money or vouchers. Our society needs to buck up... parents need to be better and our society needs to value education like it used to, when I was a kid.

    We are a messed up society and country... maybe to a point where what is wrong isn't repairable any longer.


  16. Notacon,

    Do you think it is proper for certain employees to be forced to pay union dues when their dues are then used, without their permission to advocate for legislation they disagree with?

    Just asking...


  17. Part of the problem our young people are facing,not all of them. Is when they see 4 or 5 years of having to pay for college tuition with student loans. Or getting a job as a valet parking cars, or as a cocktail waitress, or a bellman,or any other number of hotel and casino jobs that are enticing. Some of these jobs mentioned a person can make as much as $100,000 a year.

    So comparing these high paying jobs or going off to college and getting ino debt(student loans) can be a very hard choice to make for some,and easy for others to make.

  18. It should be pointed out that there are essentially two kinds of unions, the trades that most of us baby boomers are used to, and the service industry unions (which basically includes the public sector unions.)

    The trades, along with fighting for better pay/conditions/benefits for their members also provided training and to some extent a quality guarantee to employers to make the higher pay demands seem reasonable. They *also* try to limit their membership so they CAN push for higher wages. Supply and demand in the labor force at work. Nothing wrong with that, usually.

    On the other hand, the service unions don't do that. It seems to me that their primary purpose is to simply get as much as they can from management with little or no reciprocal benefit provided.

    Just as it is vital to have a good education system so there is a supply of quality employees, it is important that people who support unions understand that many unions today do not fulfill the traditional role of supplying a competent (but limited) workforce, as well.

  19. The basic difference between private sector unions and public sector unions is this:

    In the private sector, management and the union usually understand that if wages and benefits get too high, the company will become non competitive and everyone will lose their jobs.

    In the public sector, management (elected officials usually) and the union understand that since there is no competition and taxes can be raised to whatever level is necessary, wages and benefits can be astronomical and the 'enterprise' (government) and its employees (government workers) are at almost zero risk of losing their jobs.

    This is the reason that a Progressive President (FDR) did not favor unions in the public sector. We all seen the results and they are not good.


  20. The core item in the article is education. The being focus, why Nevada is lacking an educated workforce, and why our students are not being fully prepared to meet the demands of a new and growing job market.

    New companies and established companies will not start a business or relocate a business if the workforce cannot support the staffing and growth needs of the company. Education is what drives expansion and growth.

    Large companies at three things before expanding brick and mortar operations into another state, not necessarily in order,
    (1)the number of people in the force,
    (2)the level of education of targeted workforce, (3)and the education system.

    In today's retailing and marketing, most transactions are performed online, or by email, or by fax. Still, one needs smart educated people to complete all transactions properly. Many times follow-up communication is required, which brings effective communication, such as acceptable speaking and writing, honest and respectful social or professional interaction.

    Nevada has much work to do in improving our education system state wide. We are seeing improvement in Clark County. Others, like large companies in Nevada have in-house programs to ensure certain levels of management are receiving a degree from a major university.

    My number one reason to vote for President Obama...the President's commitment to education.

  21. Michael

    I wasn't attempting to push my comment as being valid in today's world. It obviously isn't regarding today's jobs and today's compensation. It was an attempt to illustrate the way things were in better times for this country. Today, $12 bucks an hour is the new paradigm. Wages will never reach the level where they compensate for inflation of the cost of goods and services, leaving the employee to remain a "wage slave" for his or her employer. Jobs will continue to be outsourced until jobs are created that can't be outsourced. The technology is there, the brain matter isn't. However, I don't need a PhD to repair my air conditioner, or my car. Trade skills are still valid, and should be pursued. Cheers!

  22. Jerry

    I agree. Everyone should home school their kids or send them to private academies for a "real" education.

    Unfortunately, that pesky cost of living and stagnate wages get in the way of your educational utopia. The average working stiff is doing just that; working. No time to teach Billy and Debby at home. Oh yeah, mom ain't there either since she's working too so the family can have something above a subsistence standard of living.

    Outside of "free" public education, there is no other option for the vast majority of working stiffs here in the "right to work" utopia that is Nevada. The lucky bonafide middle class, upper middle class, and of course, the rich can insure that their kids get a quality education, and move on to more lucrative job hunting grounds. The working class and the poor? Not so much. I've lived here long enough to know that "wage slaves" will remain "wage slaves"and the privileged few will remain the privileged few.

  23. Part of the problem is that there are few industries in Nevada. If you want work, go to Texas or Louisiana, and breath foul air and live with oppressive humidity . I worked in Lake Charles, a chemical company s*ithole. Houston is a filthy mess, with polluted bayous and rivers.

    But hey, they've got jobs. Go to Stinkadena, near Houston. It's now filled with illegals who will get a job, and die young. What a great country. No thanks, Nevada is neat...

  24. Notacon,

    Your response illustrates exactly what a big part of the problem is. I, sitting on the opposite side of where you sit, am quite willing and able to agree that corporations giving unlimited money to campaigns without identifying themselves is a big problem. I have advocated public financing of Congressional campaigns.

    You, on the other hand, when asked a direct question about unions, don't respond except to point out something else that is a problem.

    When we are unwilling to look at our own dirty laundry, anything else we say about the dirty laundry of others doesn't hold much credence.

    So, I'll ask again. Care to provide a real response?


  25. RefNV,

    I lived in Austin and also a small town called Denison, north of Dallas, just 5mi south of Ok.

    While I think most Las Vegans would like Austin, I gotta agree that Houston sucks. They don't call it Humidston for nothing. :)

  26. "Carmine, why do you and the extreme right wingers think that health care for the population is inherently a bad thing?" notacon

    I can't speak for others, just me. Health care is a wonderful thing when it is market based and driven and the Feds stay out of it with regulations and intrusion up the ying yang.