I have continuously harped on the need for a vocational school system in this country -- to re-establish apprentice programs and emphasize manufacturing engineering in our universities.
We need people with the right expertise to not only develop new, innovative products, but to design state-of-the-art manufacturing processes. We need skilled craftsmen to build tools and machinery, and we need people that have the capability to maintain them.
In part because of the insufficient number of skilled people, for many years the trend in many U.S. companies has been to buy machinery and tools overseas. This is a very shortsighted view; if this trend continues, a company is abdicating control of essential parts of its business to foreign companies. On top of that, we're exporting high-paying jobs that have in the past supported this country's middle-class lifestyle.
People may think this isn't all that bad. After all, the unemployment rate is as low as it has been in years. This may be true, but if you look at the details, most of the increases are in low-paying, minimum-wage jobs.
The newspapers report that the average price of new cars is up to $20,000. You tell me how many hamburger flippers or black jack dealers will be able to buy new cars at those prices. If people in this country wish to maintain their standard of living, they have to produce and be able to sell products in world markets.
If you doubt this, just remember it wasn't that long ago that China sold very little in this country. Now they sell $80 billion worth of business and we sell them $8 billion. And there are a lot of emerging industrial countries whose sole purpose in life is to imitate what China has done in our markets.
The solution is not just re-establishing apprentice programs, vocational schools and the rest of it. What happens if we do all this good stuff and nobody shows up?
Many in this country have the misplaced notion that the only reason people work in factories is that they're not capable of doing other work. This thinking has got to change. People have to realize that we must re-affirm our leadership in developing and manufacturing products that the world will buy.
Our admiration should go to the engineers who design products and processes and to the skilled craftsmen who build tools and machinery. These are the people who create the types of jobs that support our middle-class lifestyle.
In short, we, must commit our resources to the people and programs that will rebuild our manufacturing leadership. The path we're on now is like eating our seed: It'll keep us alive for awhile, but sooner or later we're going to run out, and along with it will go our way of life.