Thoughts on Janesville: “many people who went to Blackhawk didn’t finish what they were studying for a whole lot of reasons”

I recently read, with interest, Amy Goldstein’s book Janesville.

The work is a worthwhile look at Janesville’s history, including George Parker (Parker Pen) and Joseph A. Craig (brought GM to Janesville).

Goldstein revealed the workforce’s culture, opportunity and ultimate cost of the shutdown. She also dwelled quite a bit on Congressman Paul Ryan and Governor Scott Walker, with a bit on his predecessor, Jim Doyle.

If I have one criticism, it is Goldstein’s heavy emphasis on the politicians is, in my view an error.

Breann Schossow:

Workers Attend Blackhawk Technical College For Retraining

Goldstein: In this country, the notion of what to do when jobs go away often is, ‘Go back to school to learn to do something else.’ It’s just a very popular idea. So almost 2,000 people in Janesville went to Blackhawk Tech in the couple years after all this work went away.

The question of what is success, I thought, was a very interesting question as I was getting to know people in town, because, as I said, many people who went to Blackhawk didn’t finish what they were studying for a whole lot of reasons.

Either financial reasons or because they found that being a student, they weren’t cut out to do that. But even people who (were cut out for it) sometimes found that they just couldn’t find a decent job in what they had been studying.

… Blackhawk Tech tried very, very hard with their students.

I mean, they set up all kinds of programs to try to make it easier for factory workers to turn themselves into students, but I think it’s a hard situation when you don’t always have enough jobs of the right kind or enough jobs at all on the other end.

I don’t think it is an indictment of retraining programs broadly, but I think it does suggest that in a community that’s still having a hard time pulling enough jobs into itself, that retraining alone can’t solve everything.