By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The announcement of more than 1,600 new jobs coming to London by October is monumental for the community and kudos should be appropriately given to the many city, county, and state officials for this astronomical achievement. The City of London, Laurel County Fiscal Court and Industrial Development Authority should all be commended for their dedicated efforts to bring jobs to the area. Neither of these companies locating in London was an overnight deal and the citizens of the area should recognize and appreciate the ongoing efforts of our local leaders.
Now comes the issue of the skills of those wishing to land a higher paying job with benefits not offered by smaller businesses. Small business is the heart of every community and those must carry on.
But the new jobs — and some existing higher paying jobs in the area — have two major drawbacks. They require the ability to type. Those who did not have the ‘formal’ keyboarding in high school may not qualify for most of these new jobs.
The second is these jobs are government jobs that require a background check. Anyone with a felony may well be blacklisted from obtaining a job of this nature, although that felony charge may have been decades past.
There are many in the area who did not complete high school or obtain a GED, another restriction on many of the “better” jobs in the area. Long before students were required to remain in school until age 16 (and now age 18), many residents in the area dropped out of school to raise a family or get a job. People in their 40s and 50s who took vocational classes and graduated from high school may still not have the clerical skills to land some of the new jobs that will soon fill the area.
Those without technical skills have few offerings other than factory work, which may not have the job availability’s of these new companies, thus still lending some level of unemployability to select residents.
A remedy for this dilemma would be to make basic keyboarding a class for all elementary students. They are already using computers and keyboards, so why not be proactive and teach them the skills they need now? It’s a win-win for everyone — the students learn necessary skills that will increase productivity in their classes, as well as learning skills they can use to earn a decent living. If we can rotate classes for physical education, music, and art, surely we can add keyboarding to the curriculum.
Another ‘quick fix’ is to revise the current assistance programs. Those who are able to work but lack skills to land a well-paying job should undergo training. Not completing the training or not finding a job would result in cut-off of government assistance, such as help with electric or heating bills, food stamps, and other government programs. Those who cannot land a job due to inability to pass a drug test, or those who cannot remain sober long enough to keep a job, should not be rewarded by consistent hand-outs funded by the workforce. If our government truly wants to help the unemployed, put those funds toward buying a decent used car to get them back and forth to work rather than furnishing them utilities, food and cash earned by the working people’s tax money.
Those who receive huge amounts of food stamps should have restrictions, such as limits on pop, chips, and junk food. Many working people can’t afford to eat healthy due to high food prices, but the least we should get is knowing that the children — whose families receive this free food — are being fed properly, rather than saturated fats, carbohydrates, and sugar.
Even convicted felons should have options other than to work in minimum-wage and dead-end jobs that entice them to go back to crime in order to get by. Chronic felony offenders should face penalties for their actions, but they should always have an opportunity to improve their life if they choose to.
There is no reason that anyone who wishes to be employed should not have the opportunity. If we go by the adage that we must “sing for our supper,” it is imperative that we learn how to hum — and quickly.