Telescope Editorials 9/19/21

Opportunities Aren’t Always Answered At A University

This time of year is always one of the very best times of the year. Caps and gowns, mortar boards and “attaboys.”

Local and area schools have been shined, polished and decorated as they welcome the newest crop of graduating seniors to take one final trip across the stage. A grip, grin, flash of the camera and the latest version of our best and brightest are ready for the next chapters of their lives.

But what exactly is that “next?”

For some it’s packing up and heading to Manhattan or Lawrence. Maybe Hays, Emporia or Concordia. Maybe “next” means going to work to earn a few bucks or “next” might even be just kicking back and relaxing for a while.

Whatever “next” is, hopefully graduated students won’t overlook a career in the trades.

Rural areas of Kansas and Republic County is in particular need of people who can plum, build, wire, lay cement or turn a wrench to name but a few trade choices. For sure we need doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs, but we also need people who can roof, weld and frame a doorway, and there’s darned good money to be made at it. Areas such as Belleville are seeing a resurgence of people who want to live the lifestyle we have. And people in the trade professions are sorely in need and could basically write their own ticket to success. Be as busy as they want.

Certainly, the allure of heading off to college is powerful. The experience is great and the memories and friendships built extraordinary. But by the same token, college isn’t for everyone. To these people we would say, look at one of our fine vocational schools. Consider a career in the trades.

Our area is in desperate need of these types of services and as a provider you can make a darned good living for yourself.

Congratulations to the graduating classes of 2021. The world is your oyster.

(RCED note: check out North Central Kansas Technical College – https://ncktc.edu/)


No Matter Your Age, Make A Difference

It’s a statement I hear in one form or another a couple times a week: So many businesses are short of staff because people just want to stay home and draw unemployment benefits.

Number 1, I don’t personally know anyone who is drawing unemployment. But, common sense dictates it is time that the government stop allowing people to milk that particular cash cow. You might have to work at a different job for a while.

You might need to learn a new skill. You might have to move. You might need to get vaccinated and wear a mask.

But with “now hiring” signs everywhere, it’s time for people to get back to work.

It also makes no sense for the government to pay a “Back to Work” bonus, which is an alternative plan bandied about this week in Congress. Many businesses already offer a sign-on bonus to lure new employees, to little avail.

Number 2, if someone wants to draw unemployment rather than work–do you really want that person for an employee?

Employers need to respond to reality.

At the county commission meeting this week, Levi Whitley, the new Republic County EMS director, noted the challenge of trying to hire EMTs at the same starting wage as convenience stores and fastfood restaurants.

Think about that the next time you start to have chest pains.

I predict this year taxpayers and employers will be faced with two hard choices: start boosting wages in key jobs, or expect fewer services and less qualified applicants.

Unfortunately, generations of well-intentioned county commissioners have put the county between a rock and a hard place: good benefits used to make up for lower wages.

Now the county pays for Cadillac Escalade benefits, while workers live on Ford Escort take-home pay.

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Recently I saw a “requirement” posted on a job ad: must be reliable and plan to show up for work every day.

Ummm … yeah. That’s something you need to specify? But it is the biggest complaint I hear from local employers.

Occasionally the schools ask me to help with mock job interviews for high school students. The questions I always ask: What’s your daily attendance like at school? Are you at school on time every day? What would your teachers say about your work ethic? How do you handle a disagreement with a teacher? When I search for your name on social media, what kind of posts will I find there?

It’s funny that some stumble on those questions. Parents, think about how your children might answer those questions.

If you have quite a few negative responses: you’d better start cleaning out your basement.

Your child might be living there for a long time.

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Republic County government teacher Nick Junker recently asked me to be a panelist for the Senior Project program established in USD 109 this year. He, Jon Baxa and Debra Krotz spearhead the program, which asks seniors to spend at least 20 hours doing research on an essential question in a career-related program.

For many students, the single most terrifying part of the project was calling an adult in the community or in their chosen field to serve as a mentor.

“That’s the piece I find the most awesome,” Junker said, noting that 27 community members stepped up to mentor students. Several made a point to search out the teachers and ask them to make sure that they are considered to be mentors again in the future.

A program with a similar goal is the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge that Republic County Economic Development promotes each year. Several business ideas of young people in Republic County have earned state honors, including this year’s winner, Wonderfully Made, Carolina Barraza, Pike Valley High School.

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There’s a new realization that we need to make students realize the ultimate goal of their education is to someday get a job and be a contributing member of society.

We will miss a valuable lesson of the pandemic if we don’t open our minds to the ways technology allows people to work globally and nationally from rural areas in ways we never dreamed possible before. I suspect there will be more “hybrid workers” from both home and office in the future, more online sales and meetings, and less demand for brick-and-mortar 9-to-5 offices.

It all starts with us: to model behavior for people of all ages, by our words and actions, that it is more exciting to go to work every day in a field that provides a service to others, than staying home and playing computer games.

There are continual challenges in our world today that people of all ages can help solve. The job you started at 21 might not be your dream at age 41, and it’s okay to change directions. Retirement can mean a chance for a new career.

We build a life not just by the dollars we earn–but the difference we make.