Saturday, July 10, 2010

Milwaukee Should Focus On Infrastructure

The Journal Sentinel has recently wondered Does Milwaukee Have Enough College Graduates To Thrive? and also claimed that To Prosper, Milwaukee Should Focus On Degrees.

I'm not arguing against going to college or against education, in general. But the 'education as a silver bullet' to all our problems has been oversimplified and oversold.

As I have written before, "Most of the new jobs being created require an associate's degree or less. 85 percent of the population in the U.S. has at least a high school degree. Over 27 percent has a bachelor's. The percentage of high school and college graduates has increased since 2000. We have neither an unskilled nor an uneducated workforce. Education as a corrective to the employment problem seems minimally significant."

The so-called "skills crisis" is a myth. Some of this push toward getting more degrees and college graduates seems more of a PR push for diploma mills. Which is what our technical colleges and universities are becoming. We're graduating students and training workers for jobs that aren't there. It may be that we need to reconfigure our curriculum to fit more with the needs of the marketplace, than just continuing to garner degrees.

Milwaukee's percentage obtaining a bachelors degree, among different cohorts, is as follows: 18-24 years old, 8.4%; 25 and over, 13.6%; 25-34, 25.1%; 35-44, 21.7%; 45-64, 20%; 65 and over, 11.9%.

The City of Milwaukee's population ranks only 26th among American cities. Yet, the Daily Beast recently ranked Milwaukee the 15th smartest city in America. Milwaukee ranks 25th in bachelor and graduate degree density per square mile.

The 10 most literate cities are all blue cities with progressive taxation and modern infrastructure. We need the infrastructure and environment where research and innovation can thrive. As Marc Levine, UWM Professor of History, stated (when asked what should be done to close the education gap), "Maintain infrastructure investments (transportation, parks, etc.) vital to neighborhood quality of life."

It's great to have a highly educated workforce. But they need employment. A knowledgeable workforce is only a benefit if it can be put to use.

For Further Reading:
America's Smartest Cities

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