Resilient Communities Require Practical Skills

When everything is running smoothly, very little thought is given to the people behind the scenes who support our modern technological society. But what happens when things break down, fall apart, and no one is there who can put them together again?

The Al Fin Dangerous Child Method of Education and Child-Raising incorporates practical skills training and business skills training from pre-adolescence onward. But society at large seems to have taken the opposite approach: In the mainstream, children are sheltered from all responsibility and practical training through high school, university, and beyond.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for every three tradesmen who retire, only one person is stepping up to fill the gap. And according to a recent talent shortage survey by ManpowerGroup, more jobs for skilled tradesmen go unfilled than any other category of employment. It seems the youth generation of today has spoken and not enough of them want to become electricians or plumbers, roofers or welders, mechanics or carpenters. _

Several states are looking to replace these skilled workers, as 53% of their skilled workforce is over the age of 45, with some states going as high as 63%. It gets even more drastic; some states have as many as 20-27% of their skilled laborer force over the age of 55 and on the verge of retirement. As this aging workforce continues to retire at a high rate, the demand to replace them will directly increase as well. _


This problem has many causes — from off-shoring of skilled jobs to protectionist work-hiring policies to an increasing dumbing down and infantilisation of youth along with an exaggerated sense of self-esteem and sense of entitlement on the part of generations of younger people. Every girl a princess, every boy a prince, and not a hard-worker or ambitious visionary to be found.

A number of writers have given lip service to the need for more practical skills training. Recently, for example, the blog Apocalypse Cometh featured a story on the need for welders, HVAC techs, and carpenters. This is no more than the Al Fin blogs have been saying for several years, but it is important to keep driving the point home.

Importantly, a recent letter to the Seattle Times provides an important expansion of the concept:

Over the past several years, high schools seem to be interested only in encouraging students to pursue a university or college level education [“Better STEM education, training needed for mismatched workers,” Opinion, Nov. 14]; while this is a good and beneficial idea for most of society, there seems to be a marked lacking legislators’ understanding for the need of vocational postsecondary education training.

Until there is a complete change in construction techniques, the construction of any major structure will require electricians, carpenters, plumbers, etc. Computers have not been made that can completely build airplanes, buildings, automobiles, houses and bridges.

Due to a failing on the part of legislative bodies, vocational training in the trade skills has not been properly (or evenly adequately) funded in the area of the skilled trades. STEM training can, and should, be provided in vocational skills so that the skilled trades can produce things that benefit all. _

John Marthens, in his letter to the Seattle Times, suggests incorporating STEM training into vocational/practical skills training, thus combining skills training with theoretical science and technology within vocational programs.

This approach is tangentially related to Bruce Hall’s University Model for High School education, where a technical education is part of a comprehensive high school education that also prepares able students for university.

The conventional approach to child-raising and education in the US is breaking down, and leaving the greater society vulnerable to a broad-based skills shortage.

On the other hand, we should always examine contrary points of view, such as this 2011 New Geography piece, or this recent piece.

The piece looks at a recent graduate of a 6 year program who is having trouble finding a job, and concludes that there is no real skilled worker shortage. But perhaps the recent graduate put all of his eggs into the wrong basket, rather than making himself multi-skilled and multi-competent, as Dangerous Children are taught to be.

The New Geography piece is a bit more complex, but it is important to understand how quickly such statistical analyses of job demand trends can change. When children and youth are trained with a combination of practical skills, business skills, and theoretical knowledge along with the learning skills to train themselves, all bets are off. Such youth are being sent on a trajectory of self-development and self-fulfillment, with society-wide repercussions.

Mainstream analytical tools are inadequate to predict the results of such a change in child-rearing and education, since the mainstream is only capable of crude extrapolation — which will not serve in revolutionary times.

A multi-focal outbreak of competent ambition and skills-backed vision is something for which a decadent society is unprepared. Consider the tech boom that sprouted in the 1970s, grew and branched in the 1980s, and finally came together in the 1990s, as a modest example of what is possible when a few key individuals are inspired and empowered to instantiate their vision.

Sure, big governments and global financial services perverted, waylaid, and murdered much of the financial expansion from that tech boom. But imagine multiple expansions happening simultaneously based upon multiple ongoing inventions and innovations from several different directions — so rapidly that the old guard of vultures are unable to react quickly enough to the radical changes.

I am not talking about “the singularity,” based upon rapid technological change. Rather I am talking about another level of engagement between individuals and the outer world, based upon an opening and empowerment of minds, one by one, from the bottom up.

We are developing the technological tools to propagate these new ideas, along with the needed scientific knowledge that has been lacking up until now. It is now a question of whether there is enough time to carry the ideas through.

The foundations of modern societies are unstable, and prone to collapse despite an outward appearance of strength and power. Should such an unexpected crumpling occur, wouldn’t it be better if societies possessed an underlying core of resilient competence?

This entry was posted in Competence, Maintenance, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Resilient Communities Require Practical Skills

  1. Thank you sir for the linkage.

  2. Matt Musson says:

    Here in Charlotte – Duke Energy recently recruited Welders from across the country to work in the Nuclear power station. They were flown in and paid $50 an hour to interview and demonstrate their skills. 100 came in and only a few were good enough to be hired.

  3. alfin2101 says:

    C.M.: We bloggers get little enough respect as it is. I’m always happy to link others who are thinking along similar lines as myself.

    Matt: I’m not surprised. No doubt some of them failed the drug test. Drug use is all too common among young people in the trades. It is also common for young welders, electricians, millwrights, etc. to have too high an opinion of their skills, and to be unwilling to show up to the job on time. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of crackerjack young tradesmen who are willing to work. Just not as many as once were.

    The old coots who are still working in the trades have already been through the sifting process. And there are not nearly enough young folks stepping up to be tested so as to prove themselves, and be ready to replace the old coots who are dying off.

  4. jabowery says:

    People are naive about group selection vs individual selection and its ramifications for employment policy.

    Northern European cultures have long imposed selective pressures at the individual level starting in sparsly-populated paleolithic society and continuing in neolithic societies where the appeal of last resort in dispute processing was natural duel. This is nowhere more the case than northern Europeans’ settlement of America’s frontier.

    High population density cultures, on the other hand, are more strongly group selected. When you mix these two cultures via immigration in America without a frontier to which the individualistic genotypes can escape, you are naive in the extreme to expect that there will be no group competition. That competition will be kept as invisible as possible while the land (including positions of economic rent seeking) of the individualist people is being grabbed. Jobs that represent economic rent seeking will go to the more competitive group first and the individualists will be increasingly marginalized, seeing their situation as their own private crisis at best or, at worst, accepting the narrative that they are a group consisting of individuals who are, as individuals, merely inferior.

    This is all the more reason for young people — the few that there are — born of the Nation of Settlers should avoid STEM degrees like the plague.

Comments are closed.