Part 2: Past prescriptions to employment problem

Politicians get elected on the promise of jobs. Budgets get money on the promise of jobs. Cities give tax credits on the promise of jobs. Laws are passed for the “purpose of creating jobs”. So where are the jobs? Here’s a very recent example of a “jobs program”, the Oscar Meyer story in Davenport, Iowa: “…funded in part by a lucrative $15 million incentive package from the State of Iowa and the city of Davenport. The new plant will employ approximately 475 workers— about one-third the number currently employed in Davenport…” Link to story:

I think a look at history may help put things in focus. The United States is not the only nation facing employment dilemmas in the year 2015. We have a short history as a nation compared to our European or Asian counterparts, but our history encompasses the evolution of the meaning of “work,” how the status of the worker has evolved, and the business view of an “able” employee. By “able” I mean a person capable of doing the job as visioned by the employer.

In the 1700’s and 1800’s, apprenticeships were applied for and “paid for” with servitude by the potential learner. The apprentice was indentured to the tradesman for the duration of a contract. Perhaps a son was fortunate enough to be taught his father’s craft. Whether it was tailoring, shoe-making, stone cutting, or carpentry, it was passed down the family generation after generation. In 1937 the U.S. enacted the National Apprenticeship Law. There was a Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training organized in the Dept. of Labor. In 1962 in order to help the disadvantaged, Federal regulation was enacted to ensure nondiscrimination in training and apprenticeships. Outreach programs to the unemployed were implemented under the Manpower Development and Training Act of 1962. Apprenticeship Information Centers were operated by state employment services. Many high schools, vocational schools and technical schools offered preparatory courses for entering an apprenticeship program. According to Apprenticeship Past and Present, (U.S. Dept. of Labor publication), in 1969 there were 250,000 registered apprentices working in the U.S. This was the highest number of apprentices in U.S. history. The average age was between 16 and 24 years of age. The U.S. was deep into the post-Industrial Age and waking up to the fact that people needed training to prepare for changing job economics in 1962.

There is an Office of Apprenticeship in the Dept. of Labor today (year 2015). A directive was written in 2006 entitled Vision for 21st Century Apprenticeship. There are* four websites mentioned in the directive which reference apprentice programs:

*Editor’s note (10/9/2016): two of the website,, and Working, are no longer available for use.

Apprenticeships are one way to help solve the U.S. unemployment situation. What is very extremely disturbing is that individuals may not be ready educationally to enter any job training program. For example, according to the New York Times (Fighting Illiteracy in Chicago, With Enthusiasm, January 14, 2010), Chicago’s illiteracy rate was 53%; the national average was 23%. These are adults who cannot demonstrate basic reading proficiency. So how can these adults qualify for an apprentice program? Obviously they cannot, not without adequate schooling.

…More about Chicago in another posting.

Here’s Part 1 on this series on Jobs.

Here’s Part 3 on this series on Jobs.

Here’s Part 4 on this series on Jobs.

Here’s Part 5A on this series on Jobs.

Here’s Part 5B on this series on Jobs.

10 thoughts on “Part 2: Past prescriptions to employment problem

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