Monday, February 22, 2010

How to Recruit Large Manufacturing Employers While Improving the Local Universities at the Same Time

I try to keep my political beliefs off this board because I want this blog to be about the city of Evansville and how to improve it. However, I must give a little background on one of my beliefs in order to explain why I am very passionate about this topic. My belief is this: Public schools, whether they be middle schools, grade schools, high schools, or universities are extremely unfair, backwards, and out of touch with the needs of their communities.

In regards to middle schools and high schools, I believe it is unfair for citizens who did not go to a public school to be forced to foot the bill when they have already paid for themself to go to a private school. With that being said, I realize that tuition is tough on some families. For this reason, I have proposed two solutions to lower and/or eliminate tuition costs for public schools. They can be found on this blog. Here are their links:

In regards to universities, I can personally attest to their broken system. I got a 3.6 GPA and graduated with all academic honors from a private high school whose grading system was higher, yet I got ZERO scholarships or grants from the University of Kentucky simple because I came from out of state. I'm also against any scholarship or grant that doesn't judge a students GPA and instead judges them based on their race, gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, or zip code.

Instead of giving out money like it's candy, today's universities need to reward students based on their work ethic and school results using the private sector. They also need to be used as a recruiting tool for local businesses. Since my time at UK, I have always envied a program at the University of Louisville called Earn and Learn.

With the UofL/ UPS Earn and Learn program, a student who works part-time at UPS is eligible for up $15,000 in educational assistance. It doesn't stop there though. UofL also works with the student and UPS to make sure that their class schedule is arranged around their work hours. And because the Commonwealth of Kentucky is a part of the program, students get the rest of their tuition paid for by the state as well as their books too. I have always wondered why UK couldn't do this same program and the only answer that I have ever gotten has been that it is "unique in nature." I don't believe that is true because the program has now extended to 51 universities and cities including Indianapolis.

So, how should Evansville go about implementing this program? First of all, this program was originally set up in order to ensure that if UPS set up its air hub in Louisville it would have a big enough work force to support it. This program may not work for just any regular sized business although I see no reason why the UPS location here couldn't do the same even though it's not a hub. It's a shame that Whirlpool has already made the decision to relocate to Mexico as I believe this program would have allowed for them to stay competitive with a base in Evansville. The main reason why I am proposing this on the business side is because I believe this would give Evansville a tremendous boost over competing cities for manufacturing companies who are looking to relocate. With this program, the government funds that are used for economic development are also used to improve the local universities as well.

For example, if Evansville were to decide that they want to build the slack waterport in the Howell Railyards that I have proposed, the city and state could offer an Earn and Learn program for large manufacturing companies such as train builders, rock molders, steal welders, as well as companies that are already in Evansville like Berry Plastics, Toyota, and UPS. The companies wouldn't have to pay their workers as much since they're getting a free education and instead of Evansville and Indiana cutting a blank check to companies they would be spending their economic development funds on education. This would help strengthen universities like UE and USI who would be able to attract the best students in the country over other schools. A win-win for everyone!

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