Rubio: ‘We still need plumbers’

Not everyone needs a four-year degree to be successful, said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. “We still need plumbers.” At 41, he just finished paying off his student debt from college and law school — and he had to write a book to do it.

A Republican bill to streamline federal job training programs passed the House last week, but the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act faces strong opposition from congressional Democrats and the Obama administration.

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  1. Probably only about 25% at most of the US population is suitable for a traditional college education. As a result of our obsession with a college education for everybody we are currently graduating people with huge student loans and little prospect for a large enough salary to comfortably repay the debt.

  2. It’s not just plumbers, either. It’s HVAC techs, electricians and so on. You can start with all of the building trades and go on from there: people working retail, manufacturing jobs, municipal workers, all sorts of stuff.

    Of course, what all of these people DO need is a good high school education that includes reading at a high school level, english composition at a high school level and what we used to call “high school math” (ie, at least a good understanding of algebra). Since we’re not getting that anymore, a college degree has become the new, very expensive, credential. The mysterious “them” that causes all these problems is, as it has been since the Pogo days, just “us”.

    • I agree. That’s why I can’t figure out what the problem with high school exit exams or other competency requirements is. Students shouldn’t need to know college-prep level material, but a working knowledge of arithmetic, basic algebra, science, civics, and grammar would seem to be required to be good at most jobs. They are also useful for reading assembly directions, making sense of medical recommendations, and deciding on what to do when science meets policy, etc.

  3. I agree with Jim and Rob 100%. Academic knowledge (i.e. University degrees) are not the only kind of intelligent understanding. You can be really smart and motivated but HATE the academic setting. You can’t be a master Electrician, Plumber, Carpenter, police officer, EMT, cosmetologist, firefighter, military, etc. without at least an IQ of 110-115. And, in all these fields, you work your way up the ladder and get good experience, and you can end up with a salary as good as any BS, Master’s, or PhD holder. (I have a BS and Master’s and teach community college; my plumber has just a couple of years of community college and certification, and he makes twice what I do, just to give an example. With no student loans to repay, I might add.)

    We have to get rid of this mentality that non-college jobs are worthless, embarassing jobs to have; most of them are very honorable (see above) and earn good money over a well tended career; and all of them are necessary to keep society running.

    I’d say that, out of the general population, about 25% are meant for University studies and future Bachelor’s/Master’s/ Phd’s; 60% are meant for the kind of work I described above; and 20% are the, well, true losers.

    • Your characterization of the 20% as “true losers” is undiplomatic (your alter ego wouldn’t have said it) and probably low. Remember what happened to the Golgafrinchans; who left behind their phone sanitizers and PR and marketing people – it takes all kinds to make a society work.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      True, about plumbers and other craftsmen. Problem is, these aren’t jobs for average or slightly below average people. They’re jobs for smart, motivated people who, among other things, are orthopedically capable of doing them and who are not afraid to go out on their own (start their own business) and so forth.
      It is not enough merely to detest desk learning, or be bad at it. It’s a different kind of smart, not a good way for somebody less smart to do well.
      The gray-collar jobs (line work in the factories) supported families in reasonable style for half a century, until our WW II enemies got their factories rebuilt and southern states discovered air conditioning and rejected unionism.
      Not being able to find a job on the line at, say, $50k a year does not make you a good prospect for high-income craftsman work as an automatic alternative.
      Different issue.

  4. I teach at a high school with 75%+ Hispanic enrollment. We just had our WASC visit. One of the conderns of the WASC team was that our Auto Shop and Masonry classes (both very popular by the way) were dominated by Hispanics, and that we should be getting these kids ready for college and to become business owners rather than merely employees.

    We had to gently point out that almost all of our classes are dominated by Hispanics, and that the students in those classes would have already dropped out for the most part if we hadn’t had them.