In any life, an occupation isn't enough

Gov. Paul LePage joined business leaders Tuesday to launch a campaign to interest more Maine students in manufacturing jobs.

This is a good idea, no doubt. Students should be aware of opportunities in all areas and realistic about the career paths they take.

LePage used the occasion to take a swipe at the educational establishment. "Our schools have been in denial of what's going on out there," he said.

He may have a point, but let's not only blame teachers. Many families over the last century have specifically aimed their children at college and even professions.

How many of us have heard from our fathers, "You're going to college so you don't have to work in the factory like me." (Or drive truck, mine coal or run an elevator.)

All honorable occupations, but our parents envied the doctor in the white coat or the boss in the white shirt, and wanted "better," as they saw it, for their children. Including a better income.

Many grew up knowing that anything short of college was going to be a disappointment to their parents and they were eventually lauded as the first in the family to graduate from college.

What's more, we all know the numbers. Manufacturing jobs have been disappearing in Maine and across the country for several decades.

But manufacturing is a long way from disappearing, and there are many reasons to believe manufacturing once done overseas may be returning to our shores.

Many of these jobs are not your father's back-breaking mill job. They involve robots and elaborate precision equipment.

But we challenge the idea that either a certificate in welding or a Ph.D. in botany ensures a well-rounded person.

Learning is a lifelong process, and anyone who doesn't think so is shortchanging themselves and our society.

There's is an interesting book called the "Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know."

It is revealing to thumb through the pages and see how much you have absorbed not just from formal education, but from Sunday school, the military or your vacation out West.

What is NAFTA? Who fought in the first world war? Who was Job? What is DNA? What were the Dark Ages? Or the Renaissance? Or the Ten Commandments?

And it's all relevant, all important.

"Community is built up of shared knowledge and values — taken for granted as part of the fabric that connects us to one another," explains the preface to the Cultural Dictionary.

This is essential in a democracy where we are all called upon to weigh difficult and even highly technical questions.

What are the ethical issues in genetic engineering? Who's right about global warming? Why do we talk about Roosevelt's "New Deal" even today? How can Mainers have a higher tax burden but still pay lower taxes than residents of other states?

Of course, we all need an occupation. But if a young person thinks that's enough, they are cheating themselves and society.

We should all be striving to be a polymath, a person whose expertise spans a lot of different subjects.

That's the person who can weld but can also frame a house, talk about the Civil War with authority, speak a second language, bait a hook and know what "Gangnam style" means.

Yes, we all need a marketable occupation, whether it be welding or psychiatry.

But, according to Rudyard Kipling, "The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we shall all be as happy as kings."

He called that poem, "Happy Thought."

He could have called it "Happy Life."

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Catherine Pressey's picture


What manufacturing jobs? The few companies that are here, treat the employees with very little consideration for the long hours and swing shifts that are rotational. Making family life all but impossible, and the pay is more than some. But not really a livable wage, listening to the news story about the Nissan plants in the south. The full time employees are making $59,000. Per year. I doubt that any of our plants here pay that kind of money. And these people are wanting to Vote for Union or fair bargaining. Then their pay if part of the Auto workers union would be $69,000. And they would then have someone to speak for them in labor relations. Now I see someone in the legislature is wanting our state to go, to right to work state. I have a hard time to understand how that is called right to work, they have the right to cut their own throats as well as their fellow workers and before they know it. They will wake up to know that their pay was flat lined like all our workers pay is, now in this hostile work environment. Was a day when these employers new we could produce their products and did, problem was the green sickness got to them Greed. Not wanting to pay the employees a livable wage, with good benefits. Yesteryear gone now slave labor shops with poor shift hours and hardly any benefits.

Steve  Dosh's picture

In any life, an occupation isn't enough

Right Rex ? 13.01.31 10:30 sm
" My aim in liƒe is to make my avocation my vocation " -- Bob Frost ? 1 9 1 4 /s, Steve

FRANK EARLEY's picture

We need a new mind set......

Just as the manufacturing jobs of today have transformed over the years, so to does the need for proper education to meet these challenges. Years ago a college education was just that, a college education. I remember in the trucking industry, a guy with twenty years experience being turned down for a dispatchers job. The reason being, he didn't have a "college degree", It didn't matter what the degree was in, it could have been Liberal Arts, it still got some twenty something, a job he had no business doing. That was the mentality years ago. Now a days you need to fine tune your education to fit the job description your going after. In my case I retired at forty four years of age. I knew what field I wanted to go into because I spent twenty four years dreaming about it. I decided to find out what types of knowledge I would need to perform the job. I was fortunate enough that I was able to set up my own course schedule, based on what I needed to learn. I wanted to work with computers, I was already self taught in building them, so I went from there. By taking individual courses in Computer technology, electrical engineering, visual graphics and networking to start, I was able to, in a relatively short period of time, Finnish school with exactly what I needed, and have something to offer an employer. With everything I was able to bring to the table, I still needed to continue to learn new things. Its a never ending process, but play your cards right, and it can be a very profitable one too.....


Just a thought

When I heard this I could not help but wonder if the governor told his children not to bother with a college education but to go and work in a factory instead. The worker of the future will most likely have several careers and what they will need the most is the desire to learn and the ability to adapt and to learn new things. That's what education is about. Nobody ever has too much education.

ERNEST LABBE's picture

I agree

I agree with you that you cannot get enough education. However not every young adult has the mental ability to be a college graduate. Therefore they need training in a profession that can afford them a living wage.


You are correct

But college can mean a lot of things. It can also mean vocational or technical college. There are very few jobs available to high school grads. And if you get one, the kid that comes in and does the same job with a vocational college degree will be paid more than the high school grad. The governor seems to be promoting apprenticeships which are basically a way to get low wage workers who are basically tied to one workplace as these do not easily transfer to another workplace or to advancement. A college degree whether it be 2 year, 4 year or more, liberal arts, business, scientific or vocational or technical is still a better deal when it comes to building a career or a resume.

 's picture

What is new

What is new in LePage's plan? We have had Vocational Education schools and Community Colleges for years. And, for years businesses have supposedly been working with the Voc Ed and Community Colleges to ensure that the students are being trained to work for their companies.

So, what is new about this latest effort?


bring it back

bring back the tariffs to allow a level cost on all merchandise, which will bring back the jobs, which will bring back the economy, which will decrease the debt.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

And don’t forget it will

And don’t forget it will drive up the cost of almost everything you’ll buy, so you’ll have less money to spend on other products; that in turn will self-regulate economic growth and your imaginary job creation.

There is no such thing as a level playing field and there never will be such a thing. Learn how to compete instead of trying to find ways to handicap your competitor.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Was a fair wage at one time, before NAFTA

Wow! Mark you do not realize that a .18 cents per hour job in China does clearly give the Chinese a huge advantage, I say bring back the business leaders that gave a rats ass for the Americans. It is all about greed and greed it is. The top 2% sit on their araaasssas and laugh at we at the bottom while they employ Chinese to make their profits. And they could careless about the Chinese or other foreign workers. You say we will pay more for everything, I can remember when Marcal Paper produced a good product here, in Mechanic Falls. All gone now took the work else ware so they can have slave labor workers. We the people here fought to keep a decent wage and lots of us would gladly pay more if our kids and others that live near by can find work in a company that has both love for their home, the USA. And caring about fellow man, but what we were built on was Greed the men that built America, all of them greed.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Wow! Catherine, you do

Wow! Catherine, you do realize that you don’t know what the hell you are talking about. I have firsthand knowledge, and I can tell you the people I deal with in China pull salaries are considered upper middle class. Perhaps you read something on the internet and mistakenly applied it to all Chinese workers. It is not uncommon for Americans to stereotype how other people live.
“The top 2% sit on their araaasssas and laugh at we at the bottom while they employ Chinese to make their profits.”

Do you have a verifiable example, or is this just your feeling?

It too is a form of greed and selfishness to think global developing economies will not participate in global trade (which includes labor) just for you and other Americans to keep their standard of living. The era of low and semi-skilled employment has drastically changed. One can lament the good old days or change with the times. Take for example that during the last recession unemployment was 4.3% tops among college educated while near 11% among this with only a high school diploma. That speaks volumes.

Lastly, there is nothing stopping you from starting a socially conscience business and employ only Americans. You can pay them what you feel is a living wage. America, even in its present form, still provides the greatest opportunity for upward social mobility.

Carpe deim

Catherine Pressey's picture

Nothing Lastly, your social conscience Mark,

Wow! I am not surprise at you ignorance Mark, it is you that does not know your assss from a stone , you asked me for proof of where I am getting my info and here it is. Click Doc Movie and watch the real truth about where low cost merchandise, and how it is produced. And at what cost to those workers as well as the loss of jobs here at home. WE THE PEOPLE MAY HAVE HAD TO PAY MORE IN THE BEGINNING FOR SHOES ETC. And at first those shoes etc. came into our country a whole lot cheaper, now those cost have gone way out of sight. For that merchandise we once produced here at home. So Mark I do not give a rats assssss if you continue to think you are right. It is better that many of we out here can see the forest form the trees. Nothing you can say will convince me that Wal-Mart is any different than other businesses over in China, now that being said there could be a few that do pay better than 18 cents per hour. However now you prove to me where your getting your info to show how great these companies pay and take care of those workers in those other countries. You also should know that many of the factories over there have nets on the side of their buildings to keep employees from jumping to their deaths, when the can not take the long hours and poor working conditions any longer. That is all factual even if you fail to recognize the same. See attached:


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