Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why Teaching Math Matters

The July 18, 2013 Idaho Statesman reports on a problem that gun manufacturers here are having:
Idaho needs to produce more technically adept workers for its $500 million gun and ammo manufacturing sector to expand.
The labor gap was the recurring theme of a Wednesday forum in Boise organized by the Idaho Firearm and Accessories Manufacturers' Association.
Jeff Sayer, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce, told 44 attendees at Boise State University that a representative of one Idaho manufacturer said the business would triple in size if it could hire more machinists and other laborers with the requisite skills.
"The firearms industry needs operators with these skills," Sayer said. "That's not happening. We need to fill that gap."
I hear this from non-gun machining businesses here also -- that so few people graduate high school here with basic competence in algebra and trigonometry that they can't train them to be machinists.  The comments, of course, are a laugh -- left-wing Idahoans either insisting that the real problem is that Republicans want everyone working at minimum wage (hint: machinists, especially CNC machinists, are well paid) or that they don't want those sort of businesses here.

Especially entertaining was the claim in the comments that the average IQ in Idaho is high 70s to low 80s.  Yet, somehow, Idaho ranks fifth in the nation for patent issuance in the period 1977-2004, with almost twice the issuance rate of liberal states like Oregon, and still well ahead of California.

Read more here:


  1. When I was getting out of high school and I was looking for work, I had that there was a significant lack of training for such programs. The local industries were getting a lot of their skilled workers from out of state, due to the fact that there was no training in the area.

    (I was actually discouraged from getting training in skills such as plumbing by people who worked construction. This was the 90's and a big issue was that illegals would work these skilled jobs for less than the minimum wage.)

    I do wish that some companies would either relax their hiring standards or offer training for the skills that they want. My neighbor served in the Navy in WWII and was able to get a job at (what became) DuPont due to his skills. 70 years later I've got a friend out of the Navy and he can't get hired because he doesn't have the certificate to do in the civilian world what he did in the service of our country.

  2. Is it a lack of good teachers of math skills in Idaho that's chronic? My daughter, who graduated with a degree from U of I in mathematics, was discouraged from teaching by the silly-ass classes she was required to take to get an education degree, and she can't teach math without it. Certainly there must be the normal bell curve distribution of mathematically talented young folks within Idaho's population to support them becoming machinists. Perhaps a lack of good HS career counseling, and anyone who shows STEM proficiency is being sent to engineering schools? Maybe our colleges and tech schools need to be a little more flexible and teach what's in high demand, instead of small engine repair and so forth.

  3. "Because property is theft, man, and Patents are the theft of IDEAS, man!"

    /dirty hippie

  4. The comments do discourage one greatly as to the chances of this country collapsing.

    Argh. Stupid should hurt more.

  5. I'm willing to bet that a significant number of people who have degrees in the "humanities" wish they'd gone to trade school to learn how to run a lathe.

  6. Turns out, I found out that I play racquetball with the head of CWI's CNC machinist program, and they're turning out very competent, highly competitive machinists every year. No shortage of students to fill their program. I wonder if the folks who complained about the shortage of machinists or wrote about the problem talked to him? He did say they had a 100% placement rate for their grads, so maybe the gun manufacturer just doesn't want to pay top dollar and compete to hire these folks, thinks they ought to work cheap just because it's Idaho.