After decades of pushing bachelor’s degrees, U.S. needs more tradespeople

August 29, 2017

PBS NewsHour
By Matt Krupnick
The Hechinger Report
@MattKrupnick

FONTANA, Calif. — At a steel factory dwarfed by the adjacent Auto Club Speedway, Fernando Esparza is working toward his next promotion.

Esparza is a 46-year-old mechanic for Evolution Fresh, a subsidiary of Starbucks that makes juices and smoothies. He’s taking a class in industrial computing taught by a community college at a local manufacturing plant in the hope it will bump up his wages.

It’s a pretty safe bet. The skills being taught here are in high demand. That’s in part because so much effort has been put into encouraging high school graduates to go to college for academic degrees rather than for training in industrial and other trades that many fields like his face worker shortages.

Now California is spending $6 million on a campaign to revive the reputation of vocational education, and $200 million to improve the delivery of it.

“It’s a cultural rebuild,” said Randy Emery, a welding instructor at the College of the Sequoias in California’s Central Valley.

Go to full story at PBS NewsHour

Above: Student Kalei Kipp in Cedar Crest High School’s welding program in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, during the 2016-2017 school year. Three percent of welders in the U.S. are women. Photo from PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs series “Outside the Box.”

USDA certifies another investment pool for small and startup rural businesses

Acting Deputy Under Secretary Roger Glendenning has announced that USDA has certified the Innova Ag Innovation Fund IV LP as an investment pool for small and startup rural businesses.

The fund will support 30 to 45 companies that have the potential to generate more than $200 million in economic activity and create 600 jobs. It will provide capital for high-growth companies in the biosciences, technology and agricultural technology industries. The fund is the second USDA has certified under the Rural Business Investment Program (RBIP). RBIP funds support USDA’s strategy for rural economic growth.

Farm Credit System members are contributing $31 million to the Ag Innovation Fund. The Farm Credit System is a nationwide network of banks and lenders specifically chartered to serve agriculture and the U.S. rural economy.

California passes nation’s toughest methane emission regulations

The San Francisco Chronicle
By Dominic Fracassa
dfracassa@sfchronicle.com

California air quality officials have approved what are widely considered to be the most rigorous and comprehensive regulations in the country for controlling methane emissions, a move that helps cement the state’s status as a standard-bearer for environmental protection.

The new rules, green-lighted Thursday by the state’s Air Resources Board, seek to curb methane emissions at oil and gas production plants by up to 45 percent over the next nine years. The cuts will come from a combination of heightened efficiency requirements, inspection mandates and rules meant to ensure that leaks are discovered and fixed swiftly. The regulations apply to both onshore and offshore oil and gas centers.

The standards, which experts said mark the first major piece of environmental regulation passed by any state since the turnover of power in Washington, were hailed as a triumph by environmental activists, but criticized as cumbersome, costly and ultimately unnecessary by oil and gas producers.

“Our industry is not the top emitter of methane in the state, yet this rule will add to the nation’s toughest regulations that our operators must follow, such as cap and trade,” Rock Zierman, the chief executive officer of industry trade group the California Independent Petroleum Association, said in a statement. “We hope that regulators will provide ample time for implementation and ensure that the program is fairly and consistently enforced across the state.”

Above: Crews work on a relief well at the Aliso Canyon plant in Los Angeles in 2014. Dean Musgrove, Associated Press.

Chronicle staff writer David R. Baker contributed to this report.

Go to full story at The San Francisco Chronicle

Manufacturing jobs are returning to some places. But these jobs are different

The Washington Post
By Ted Mellnik and Chris Alcantara

December 14, 2016

The nation shed manufacturing jobs at a steady pace over most of the last quarter century. A combination of trade deals, automation and economic recessions sent the number of manufacturing jobs plummeting, with 6 million jobs being lost by 2011.

But since then, about half a million jobs have been regained.

They’re not the same jobs that left. They’re not coming back everywhere, or even in the same places where jobs were lost. The map of where products are made in this country is being redrawn.

Go to full story at The Washington Post