I am cheating with the date on this post since I wrote much of this but never published it when it was first on my mind. With that said, trade schools and a volunteer military.
Yes, those two subjects were linked together by the man in front of me at the Air France counter after we all filed off the plane that did not take us to SFO. As a side note, that same plane ended up flying that night to Rio and we ended up with a different 747 (which was much newer) that went to SFO the next day. (Though even that flight was nearly three hours delayed). After we all filed off the original plane, there was of course a lengthy line at the Air France service counter to give everyone their meal and hotel vouchers and rebook the couple people who wanted different travel arrangements. I ended up in a lengthy conversation with the man in front of me (who happens to live in Santa Rosa and work for Cisco) and we discussed a number of topics that were all in some way related to the state of the U.S. economy and the direction that the country is headed. I suppose all topics related to the U.S. are somehow related to the direction the country is heading.
We both expressed a bit of frustration with the state of U.S. manufacturing and the difficulty with convincing people of the difference between price and value. The latter topic is quite important to me since I work for a company that seeks to sell based on value most of the time rather than cost. The former is perhaps how we ended up working our way to the subject line of this post. America needs a strong middle class. This is incredibly important for both the general welfare of people, but also the stability of the country. We need a skilled middle-class and many of those departing manufacturing jobs are winnowing the available opportunities for that group. But how is this related to the military and trade schools? Well, my line compatriot's opinion is that the military serves an important function in the skill-building process for many young Americans. This has allowed for trade schools, which seem to be more prominent in Europe, especially Germany, to play less of a role in U.S. education and training. My linemate postulated that with the military as an all-volunteer group, the relative lack of trade schools compels many who do not have the means or desire to go to a 4-year university to seek it out for training.
It is somewhat of a chicken and egg argument. Does no trade schools help nudge people to the military? Or does the military help reduce the need for trade schools? My line buddy didn't go as far to say the word "conspiracy" but he did imply it was mostly the former and that the military and powers-that-be had an interest in there being fewer trade schools to help shunt people towards military service. It's an interesting idea. What say ye, my three readers?