In an address to civic leaders last Wednesday, Sullivan revealed that he had more success finding trained workers in Texas than Wisconsin.
A delegation of senior Texas government authorities met Sullivan at the airport, including the mayor of the town of Kilgore. In a one-hour lunch, they matched Bucyrus with a ready-to-occupy factory with every possible amenity.
More important, they asked Sullivan exactly what sort of workers he needed. Sullivan said 80 with specific skill. The state gave Sullivan a guarantee that the workers would be waiting when the doors opened at the expansion site in Kilgore. State officials customized a recruitment, training and certification program. One year later, when the expansion site in Kilgore opened its doors, the 80 welders were waiting. [Emphasis mine]
Impressive. He then contrasted that to what he found in Milwaukee:
What pained Sullivan most, the CEO said, was that the Milwaukee Area Technical College also said it would customize a welder training program for Bucyrus. But MATC never gave a guarantee as Texas did, Sullivan said. Nor did MATC deliver. Some didn’t finish training. Others were certified but failed a drug test.
But he didn’t blame MATC alone:
About 50,000 working-age residents in the city of Milwaukee cannot read beyond the third grade, Sullivan told M-7. In Wisconsin, meanwhile, some 710,000 working-age people did not finish high school.
Milwaukee is not alone in this:
According to federal data cited by the M-7, 32% of manufacturers nationally report unfilled jobs because they cannot find qualified workers. The nation has nearly 300,000 open positions in manufacturing.
So is he running?
On the subject of politics, Sullivan continues to hold open the option that he will run for the U.S. Senate seat that long-serving Democrat Herb Kohl now occupies, following Kohl’s announcement that he won’t seek re-election. Asked for his political affiliation, Sullivan replied: “I have none.”
We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess. But Sullivan is clearly eager to work on education reform:
Sullivan disclosed his investment in Texas, he said, to build his case for wholesale reform of Wisconsin’s job training and education system. Radical action is needed, he warned the M-7.
As chairman of the Governor’s Council on Workforce Investment, a state advisory panel, Sullivan wants Gov. Scott Walker to change how the state spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year in federal job training funds – and in the process, link the funds to reforms of local education programs. The proposals would change how workforce investment boards – regional training entities – apply for funds. They would need to justify each allocation with commitments to reform the curricula of each region’s kindergarten-through-12th public schools as well as each region’s technical colleges.
It’s a conversation that needs to take place.
I’m not one of those, “Blame it all on the teachers,” guys. Administrators, government leaders and “professionals,” must share in the blame, but those who are to blame the most are parents who are uninvolved in their children’s education and are neither demanding nor making sure that their kids get the education they need to compete in today’s society.
The reason we have breakfasts, lunches, sex-education programs, etc., is that schools are finding that parents are not doing it. And they are trying to fill a gap, however poorly we think they are doing.
Until parent involvement changes, especially in the inner city, any other reform will fall short.
More on Tim Sullivan:
“…we have got to change the way we’re doing things. This is not the way to run a country.”
Other reading I’ve done on education this week: