Your Opinion: Benefits of job skills

Dear Editor:

Unemployment insurance premiums are typically based on a maximum 26-week benefit period. Emergency benefits started in late 2008 when unemployment was around 7 percent, and rising. A three-month extension of the five year old emergency benefits will add another $6.5 billion of debt on the shoulders of young people. The CBO claims that extending the benefits for another year will add 200,000 jobs. If so, all the jobs gained during the past five years must be due solely to emergency unemployment benefits.

During the spring of 2012 people in California were questioning why several major bridge construction projects had been given to Chinese construction companies, companies that almost exclusively used Chinese workers. Government officials said, and this was confirmed by local union leaders, that U.S. contractors could not do the projects because they could not find enough workers who could weld. The national unemployment rate during 2011, the year the contracts were probably let, hovered at near 10 percent, while California’s unemployment rate was closer to 12 percent; all those unemployed and yet not enough welders.

During 2012 the Manpower Group surveyed 1,300 US businesses; 49 percent of them said they were finding it difficult to fill critical positions within their business. At the top of the difficult to fill list were skilled tradesmen.

John Ratzenberger, you may remember him as Cheers postman Cliff Claven, is pushing for Americans to recognize the opportunities for skilled tradesmen. He claims that there are nearly 600,000 skilled trade jobs open in America’s manufacturing sector. Ratzenberger refuses to call them blue collar jobs, he refers to them as essential jobs. He says, “If we run out of plumbers, that’s fairly serious. If your sink doesn’t work and the toilet doesn’t flush, what do you do?”

Government considers that we have reached full employment when the unemployment rate hits 4 percent. Unemployment in North Dakota is 2.6 percent, in South Dakota it is 3.6 percent and in Nebraska it is 3.7 percent.

Why can’t we expect those who are unemployed to learn a trade? Why shouldn’t we expect them to relocate to a state where jobs are available, even if only on a temporary basis? I have two Tennessee friends who are working in the Dakotas because they can make so much more money than they were making in Tennessee. Governments answer, as always, is more handouts, rather than expecting people to take responsibility for themselves.

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