Think our basic education system isn’t crap? Read This!

❝ Engineers in the Bay Area. Advertising managers in Chicago. Freight specialists in Arizona. The job listings keep piling up at Amazon, a company that is growing in many directions amid one of the tightest labor markets in memory.

On Monday, Amazon said it had 30,000 open positions in the United States, including full- and part-time jobs at headquarters offices, technology hubs and warehouses…

❝ …Last fall, Amazon raised the minimum wage at its warehouses to $15 an hour, and this past summer, it said it would spend $700 million to retrain about a third of its American workers to perform tasks that required advanced skills. The effort included a major push to improve the technical expertise of corporate and tech-focused employees, such as turning entry-level coders into data scientists.

We live in a nation where most of our politicians don’t consider education as critical as infrastructure…and the last time the latter was brought up-to-date the president was a retired general named Eisenhower.

The fossil fuel era is coming to an end and…

❝ “Coal is dead.”

These are not the words of a Greenpeace activist or left-wing politician, but of Jim Barry, the global head of the infrastructure investment group at Blackrock — the world’s largest asset manager. Barry made this statement in 2017, but the writing has been on the wall for longer than that.

❝ Banks know it, which is why they are increasingly unwilling to underwrite new coal mines and power plants. Unions and coal workers know it, which is why they are demanding a just transition and new employment opportunities in the clean economy. Even large diversified mining companies are getting out of the business of coal.

The only ones who seem to have remained in denial are President Donald Trump and non-diversified mining companies like Westmoreland Coal. The Denver-based firm made a bad bet in 2013 when it purchased five coal mines in Alberta. Now it wants Canadian taxpayers to pay for its mistake.

This is becoming a battleground, many ways and means, many reasons. Workers who need retraining and creepy investors trying to get out of foolish contracts do not have common cause.

Canadian province puts up $40-million for workers losing jobs during the end of coal

❝ Alberta is putting aside $40 million to help workers losing their jobs as the province transitions away from thermal coal mines and coal-fired power plants over the next decade.

Labour Minister Christina Gray said the money will top up benefits to 75 per cent of a worker’s previous earnings during the time they collect employment insurance…

“Our government is going to provide workers with income support,” Gray said…

❝ “This income would insure that workers are better able to support their families as they transition to new employment training opportunities or retirement,” said Gray…

❝ Vouchers up to $6,000 over two years will help cover the costs of post-secondary education, like tuition, books and fees…

❝ Alberta, under its Climate Leadership Plan, is phasing out coal-fired electricity and moving to renewable and natural-gas generated electricity by 2030, aligning closely with a similar deadline set by the federal government.

Conservatives hate this. The Harper government had no compunction about closing down diminishing, backwards, energy systems. But, provision for retraining workers was out of the question. No doubt other ideologues will also find a creative way to hate change, hate means of helping working folks through qualitative change.

Of course, none of these problems exist in the GOUSA. There is no concept of helping workingclass families from our present government, our fake president.

The World’s Largest Coal Company Is Shutting Down 37 Mines


Channi Anand

❝ Coal India — a government-backed coal company – is reportedly closing 37 of its “unviable” mines in the next year to cut back on losses.

India is primed for an energy revolution. The country’s ongoing economic growth has been powered by fossil fuels in the past, making it one of the top five largest energy consumers in the world. But it has also invested heavily in renewables, and the cost of solar power is now cheaper than ever. In some instances, villages in India have avoided coal-powered electricity altogether, and “leapfrogged” straight to solar power…

❝ India’s energy situation is changing so fast that even expert predictions about its switch to renewables are wildly off: A study from last year claimed India would be building more than 300 coal plants in the next 10 years, but experts said the data was already outdated by the time the report was published, and that India would be moving toward renewables instead.

The decline of Coal India, which produces 80 percent of the country’s domestic coal output, is more evidence that we are collectively moving away from fossil fuels as cleaner, renewable technologies become more widely available. This reality is important to grasp in every country where coal used to be king. Even as Donald Trump promises coal jobs, let’s remember that those jobs aren’t likely to come back.

❝ And for countries like India, where companies like Coal India employ more than 300,000 people, training people to work in more viable energy markets will be increasingly important to provide sustainable livelihoods. Luckily, it looks like the solar industry will have some job openings.

The same is true in the United States on a smaller scale. US mines are highly automated compared to India. Still, the possibilities for new jobs are at least as strong – if we only had state and federal governments in place that cared more about retraining workers for new jobs than guaranteeing profits for out-of-date lobbyists and corporate CEOs.

If US coal workers were retrained to work in solar – the first thing to happen is they’d make more money

coal to solar
Click to enlargeShutterstock

The global economy is in a massive transition from a fossil-fuel-based energy system to one using sophisticated renewable energy technologies. For tens of thousands of fossil fuel workers, though, the energy industry outlook is not promising. For coal industry workers, the future looks particularly bleak. However, research I conducted with Edward Louie of Oregon State University offers hope for a better future based on retraining workers. Our study…quantified the costs and benefits of retraining coal workers for employment in the rapidly expanding solar photovoltaic industry — and it explores different ways to pay for this retraining.

…As coal investors have fled in droves to invest in more profitable companies and industries, coal workers have been left with pink slips and mortgages on houses with few buyers in blighted coal country. It is clear that coal is no longer a competitive form of electrical generation.

The one energy sector that is growing at an incredible rate is the solar industry — and it is hiring.

For decades the solar industry has battled against enormous government subsidies for coal. But because of the tremendous drop in costs for solar technology, solar adoption is now rising rapidly. Bloomberg reports that the American solar industry had a record first quarter in 2016, and for the first time, it drove the majority of new power generation. The U.S. solar industry is creating a lot of jobs, bringing on new workers 12 times faster than the overall economy…

Our study found that this growth of solar-related employment could benefit coal workers, by easily absorbing the coal-industry layoffs over the next 15 years and offering full-time careers.

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we looked at all current coal industry positions – from engineers to mining and power plant operators to administrative workers – the skill sets required for each…and their respective average salaries. For each type of coal position, we determined the closest equivalent solar position and salary. For example, an operations engineer in the coal industry could retrain to be a manufacturing technician in solar and expect about a 10% salary increase. Similarly, explosive workers, ordinance handlers, and blasters in the coal industry could use their sophisticated safety experience and obtain additional training to become commercial solar technicians and earn about 11% more on average.

Our results show that there is a wide variety of employment opportunities in the solar industry, and that the annual pay is attractive at all levels of education, with even the lowest skilled jobs paying a living wage (e.g., janitors in the coal industry could increase their salaries by 7% by becoming low-skilled mechanical assemblers in the solar industry). In general, we found that after retraining, technical workers would make more in the solar industry than previously in coal…

The results of the study show that a relatively minor investment ($180 million to $1.8 billion, based on best and worst case scenarios) in retraining would allow the vast majority of U.S. coal workers to switch to solar-related positions. Of course, training times depend on type of job and prior experience…

Workers in any declining industry can learn from the coal industry. They can provide themselves valuable job security insurance by preemptively retraining, and there are numerous opportunities for online training – and even working – in a wide variety of fields. Businesses in tangential industries may also want to consider retraining their own workers — electric utilities, for example, can retrain their coal-fired power plant workers for positions involving utility-scale solar farms

Yes, I think these folks at Harvard are a little naive about voluntary retraining by our coal barons. From the Koch Bros to the Petroleum Club – they couldn’t care a rat’s ass about the workers they lay off. Profits, profits, tax breaks – and more profits is what counts. It’s why they buy and sell politicians from both of the two old parties. Results count more than ideology.

No, we’ll need to light a fire under state and federal politicians to get retraining rolling. And not only in fossil fuels. Send the bill to the bubbas taking the profits from over the years.

Germany’s unemployment rate reaches record low


The photo links to a site from the German Ministry of Education and Research

German unemployment fell more than forecast in December as exports of cars and machinery boomed and one of the mildest winters on record helped support jobs in construction…

German companies, working off orders for exports and investment goods, have so far defied a debt crisis the European Commission says risks triggering a recession in the euro area. The Munich-based Ifo institute’s measure of business confidence rose unexpectedly in December, and polls show most Germans see their job as secure even as Europe’s biggest economy slows…

Carmaker Audi AG said on Dec. 27 that it may add 1,200 jobs this year as it expands investment in electric vehicles and light-metal technology. Airbus SAS, maker of the A380 superjumbo whose German production sites include Hamburg, said Dec. 14 that it’s seeking 4,000 more workers. Of Hamburg’s largest 200 employers, 42 percent said they plan to boost hiring in 2012, the Abendblatt newspaper reported Dec. 30, citing its own poll…

Across Germany, 90 percent of voters said they view their jobs as secure, a poll of 2,000 respondents by Ernst & Young International for Die Welt newspaper published today showed. Forty percent said they expect the economy to weaken in 2012.

Compare that to any poll of economic confidence in the United States since Bill Clinton left office. Even in the period before the Great Recession – brought to us by Bush/Cheney in the White house – American workers confronted economic policies that focused solely on maximizing profits through outsourcing.

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After 13 years of chauffeurs Jack Straw forgot how to drive

Jack Straw, the Blackburn MP and former Home Secretary, is having to learn how to drive again because he has forgotten after being chauffeured everywhere during Labour’s 13 years in power.

Mr Straw is completing a “driving refresher course” as well as received tips from a senior Labour colleague on how to cope with motorway driving. Since 1997, the former minister is understood to have only driven short distances on quiet minor roads a handful of times.

A friend of Mr Straw told a Sunday newspaper: “Jack was pretty much driven everywhere for 13 years. He did a spot of driving on minor roads to run the odd errand but not much else…

Mr Straw, as Justice Secretary, announced in 2009 that the maximum penalty for reckless driving would be more than doubled from two years in jail to five.

The legal change led to a rise in the number of drivers choosing to take refresher lessons, and the increase was particularly prevalent among elderly motorists.

Mr Straw, who stood down from Labour’s front bench last year, was unavailable for comment.

He probably forgot what it’s like to be honest man with reasonable opinions based on something other than political expediency and opportunism.