Scene In Passing: Scene passes, as do ample opportunities

The passing scene provides continual reminders regarding a crucial need in the nation, state, region and right here in Carson City.

It’s obvious to thinking citizens. It certainly isn’t a new need. It grows more obvious daily. It costs us continually. It contributes to the national economic malaise. It can be fixed, but will take considerable time and effort. It ought to be taken as an American scandal, despite a modicum of inroads seen locally, but people bypass the reality and meaning of it without sufficient angst.

In broad terms, it is the dumbing down of America. Specifically, it is an untrained work force. A recent report and companion event concentrated on the problem in our backyard of Nevada.

“Because your workers are not optimally trained,” said Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution’s Mountain West, “you have a drag on growth and a lack of opportunity for people who want the credentials to move into good jobs.”

Brookings’ report called “Cracking the Code on STEM” highlighted the critical need. The acronym stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The report said STEM-trained people with four-year degrees earn on average close to $77,000 annually, almost a 50 percent premium compared with those without STEM backgrounds coming out of higher education.

The College Board, meanwhile, in a different report last week said the price tag for higher education continues to climb. The highest jump was 3.7 percent for private schools, which cost $42,419 annually. That compares with $11,052 for two-year schools paid by in-state students, $18,943 for in-state students at four-year institutions and $32,762 for out-of-staters at four-year schools. No wonder student debt has mushroomed in recent years.

These trends beg the question: why don’t parents and educators stress STEM training in two-year and four-year colleges so young people learn hard sciences and math? Perhaps more to the point in this region, why did the Nevada Legislature during the recession decimate budgets for two-year schools such as the Carson City-based Western Nevada College, which has classes to train for jobs in industry?

Where is Tesla Motors going to get the skilled work force of 6,500 needed to operate the gigafactory for batteries it’s building in northern Storey County?

Let’s face it, those who are STEM-trained earn more money and tend to make things rather than provide services. So, finally, the big question:

Should we keep burying our heads in high desert sand by changing our favorite bumper sticker from “We Don’t Much Care How You Did It In California” to “We Don’t Much Care How You Do It In China?”

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at


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