Wow. The Czar got some actual mail the other day, and for a second, he had to check the date, as it’s been a while since anyone has sent anything. Fortunately, it was from Operative B, who had this to say on the Czar’s recent comments on the economy.
There is a phenomenon in the tech industry known as the “silver tsunami” or “gray tsunami”, which is defined as the impending and permanent departure, through either retirement or other means, of highly experienced and extremely capable senior engineers. This is not the same as the departure of financial managers, bankers, or other paper-hangers. It is a serious problem that currently has no solution.
It’s really simple: learning hardware design and engineering is hard work. Learning embedded software design and engineering is hard work. Learning firmware design and engineering is hard work. And all three skills are needed to turn out the highly complex and advanced systems that are needed to drive economic, commercial, and industrial productivity.
There’s a reason that all of these new technological wonders seem to be coming from companies located offshore: Americans became too lazy to spend the time to learn how to do the “hard stuff”. America is now reaping the seeds it planted by making it easier to go to a college or university, spend years in a curriculum leading to a useless “skill” while partying and protesting, and then feeding and clothing those graduates while they work as baristas at a local Starbuck’s.
Your friend who complains about not being able to find forklift operators is right, but for a reason he may not realize. For far too long, the “elite” have disdainfully looked down on anyone without a college degree from an ivy-league school. They use terms like “just a plumber” or “just a carpenter”, and then wonder why they can’t find someone to fix their pipes or re-hang a door
Some of us have spent decades advocating for a dual-track educational system: university and trade. In truth, a trade provides far more job security than a university degree in financial management. Plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, roofers, dental hygienests – these folks are needed all year long and all the time. They sometimes earn more money than some of the “professionals” and are in much higher demand: when you need a plumber, you need a plumber.
But to work in the trades, you have to put down your smartphone and pay attention to what you’re doing. You have to put someone else’s needs ahead of yours. Look at American K-12 schools, and you see more emphasis and attention to social and emotional “needs” than in teaching the skills needed to become functionally independent. When these children graduate from high school, they neither have the skills nor the emotional maturity to begin productive lives. Fewer and fewer students are entering STEM curricula because it’s hard, and too many of those who do enter STEM studies end up dropping out.
This is not wrong, but the Czar might quibble on the reason you can’t find a forklift driver: the simple reason is that they’re just not out there. They’re gone. We use to have a stockpile of people who could indeed do these things, as they weren’t particularly employable. But the economy is expanding so quickly that even these resources are dried up. They’re dried up because they’re all working.
This is of course a minor quibble, because (a) otherwise, Operative B is right about the priority of our resources, and (b) the explosive growth of Amazon and Wal-Mart have seen forklift drivers specifically skyrocket in demand.
Believe it or not, this was not foreseen. The Czar admits he was sympathetic to the Obama administration’s assumptions that these blue-collar jobs were gone, and simply were not coming back. However, Trump seems to have sputtered the manufacturing sector back into a flicker of life, and suddenly, yes, these jobs are needed again. And after 8 years of Obama and 8 years of Bush writing off the manufacturing world, yeah, we kind of agreed that kids should be looking elsewhere. Well, these jobs are back—and the workers? Well, they went elsewhere.