May 5, 2013

What we can learn from Europe

The middle and working classes in this country have had a difficult last few years. All but the top 5 percent have lost wealth. Some have been forced to delay retirement. Others in retirement no longer have the income and security that they once thought. And, still others grapple with persistent unemployment and underemployment.

Yet, we have been lucky compared to some nations.

Europe is often a microcosm of the best and worst an economic union has to offer. It remains divided, with some nations prospering while others flounder. Yet, somehow, it must knit itself together as an imperfect economic union.

Let’s begin with one of its strengths. Germany has forged a compact between free enterprise and its working class. The coalition promises social and economic responsibility by its corporations and inclusion of its workers. There, management and unions have figured out how to work together in the interest of the whole. They have learned to cooperate to provide long-term productivity and sustainability through a partnership.

A variety of German institutions assume responsibility for the training of their workforce. Universities educate a smaller share of their population than we do, but more of the young people who begin college in Germany finish it. Their institutions of higher education produce a good mix of doctors, nurses, lawyers, social workers, administrators and other professional white-collar and green-collar staff. And, they don’t leave as many highly trained individuals unemployed or underemployed as we do.

Companies and unions also cooperate to train those who see value and dignity in technical professions like electricians, heavy-equipment operators, machinists, welders, plumbers and pipefitters. They help sponsor the education of the next generation of blue-collar workers by providing internships that allow young people to get real-world experience in their trade. The companies then hire these workers who have received two or more years of training and practical experience beyond high school.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • colin_read.jpg Good organizations lack drama

    Groups that accomplish their objectives do so with a minimum of distraction and politics, focusing instead on creativity and a dynamic vision, according to columnist Colin Read.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Parking fines a short-sighted policy

    Tourists should be encouraged to do business downtown without fear of getting tickets, according to columnist Colin Read.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Technical training a key part of education

    Recently honored, Champlain Valley Educational Services offers meaningful careers for those not heading for college, according to columnist Colin Read.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Constitution withstands test of time

    The nation's founding document is a delicate balance that we should continue to nurture, according to columnist Colin Read.

    July 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg This region helped shape a new nation

    As we celebrate our nation's history, we must also appreciate the key role the North Country played in the founding of two countries, according to columnist Colin Read.

    June 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Diversity of views a key to progress

    With today's mobile society and 24-hour media, like-minded people tend to congregate together stifling diversity of opinion, according to columnist Colin Read.

    June 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Local heros needed to inspire us all

    It takes individual talent and initiative to truly move a community forward to fulfill its economic destiny, according to columnist Colin Read.

    June 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Fee on carbon needed

    Creating incentives to curb emissions is critical to containing climate change, according to columnist Colin Read.

    May 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Governor inspires renewed shared-services effort

    Tax-cap plan has provided incentives for municipalities to get together to try and increase savings and efficiency, according to columnist Colin Read.

    May 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Pipeline issue has no simple answer

    If Alberta oil is not transported through Keystone, it will cause more pollution to send it to China, according to columnist Colin Read.

    May 11, 2014 1 Photo