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Christie Vilsack spent 8 years as First Lady of Iowa while her husband Tom, now Secretary of Agriculture, was Governor.   A  native of Iowa, she and Tom moved back to the state after he finished law school at the request of her father  (Tom was a foundling in Pittsburgh before they met at Hamilton College).  She has moved to Ames - site of Iowa State - to run in the newly drawn 4th Congressional District against the obnoxious Steve King.  The district is winnable -  only about half of it is in King's current district.

I have written about Christie's candidacy before in this brief piece about her outstanding fundraising in the 3rd quarter.  And I will continue to write about the campaign, because Tom and Christie are personal friends.  Consider that my disclosure.

One concern Christie wants to address in her campaign is how to keep Iowa's young people in Iowa.  What can be done to have jobs for them?  She remembers her father's request that she and Tom return to the state.

After travelling around the district and listening to lots of people, Christie's approach is to place a greater emphasis on apprenticeships.

Please keep reading as I explore what she has offered.

Not all productive jobs require a four year college education.  A successful lifestyle can be maintained by employment in a skilled trade.  For many trades, the best possible training is an apprenticeship program.  It is true that some community colleges offer training in skilled trades, but as Christie notes in Apprenticeships:  One Avenue to New Iowa Jobs (as it appears on her campaign website),  

Apprenticeships provide a lifetime of value. One study found that an individual who goes through an apprenticeship earns $269,000 more during their lifetime than someone who simply gets an associate degree.

Apprenticeships can be applied more broadly than the traditional skilled trades such as carpentry, pipefitting, maintenance, machining, or welding, which often require some level of certification that is achieved after completing an apprenticeship.  As Christie notes,

Apprenticeships don’t have to be limited to skilled trades like carpentry and machine repair. They can help prepare workers in other fields like dental assistants, daycare providers and home healthcare workers.

Why should this be an issue for someone running for a federal office, Member of Congress?  

Despite the proven success of apprenticeships in preparing Americans for good jobs, the federal government has largely ignored them. Based on the latest figures available, Washington invests only $29 million in apprenticeship programs compared to a total of $3.9 BILLION on all other workforce development programs.

I will return to Christie Vilsack's ideas about apprenticeships in a moment.  First a few words about her.

I met Tom before I met Christie.   Tom was exploring running for President in the 2008 cycle.  He had a strong interest in education, in part because Christie had been a teacher.  His internet guy, Kevin Thurman, arranged conference calls with some well-known educational bloggers, including me (Kevin knew my work here because he was on the site in pre-Scoop days, and IIRC had a 3-digit UID).  That led to some followup exchanges of blog entries between me and Tom, starting with my posting this piece on 10/8/05 and Tom responding four days later with this piece  That began the career of Tom Vilsack, Daily Kos blogger, whose posts you can read here

Tom was going to be in Arlington VA where I live for a fundraiser for a friend.  He and I arranged to meet afterward.  We talked for well over an hour, closer to two, mainly about education.  He later told me by email when he discussed our conversation Christie simply told her "listen to him."  Obviously that favorably inclined me towards her before I ever met her!

I first met her briefly when I was Tom's guest when he addressed the National Press Club.  Over the years since I have stayed in touch with Tom regularly via email on a variety of topics.  My wife and I have had dinner with both of them, as we will again shortly.  As soon as Christie began exploring running against Steve King, I told them both I would help in any way I can.  While I live in Virginia, I consider this race to be of national importance.  So do the Dems in Congress -  Christie has a fundraiser this coming Wednesday for which the headliner is Steny Hoyer.

Returning to  Christie's piece on apprenticeships.  Allow me to quote the beginning:  

Apprenticeships: One Avenue to New Iowa Jobs

As I traveled the 39 counties that make up the new Fourth Congressional District, I heard the same things over and over wherever I went:

“I want to work, but I can’t find a decent job.”

“I have a job now but I’m worried about the future.”

“I’m afraid my son or daughter will have to leave our area to find a job.”

These are the things our public officials must focus on. Instead, Congress spent the last months playing a game of “chicken” with the federal debt limit. And this has resulted in a loss of faith in the creditworthiness of our nation.

These political games have got to stop.

Washington is broken and we need to fix it. We need people in Congress who are focused like a laser on the needs of America’s families.

The question that should guide Iowa lawmakers is what kind of future will we provide for the next generation? How can we make sure that our small cities and rural communities will survive in the years to come?

The answer is that businesses will locate and grow where they find workers with the skills they need to make a profit. We need to make sure that more Iowans are prepared for new, good-paying jobs.  

One proven way to do this is to expand apprenticeship programs, where tomorrow’s workers can get a head start by learning on the job.  

Note how she sets the context in terms of what the people are saying and experiencing.

Remember that almost 1 in 5 Americans still live in rural areas.

Remember that people have roots in their home towns, and might want to stay, but need jobs in order to do so.

Having trained and skilled employees is often a draw for companies.  The cost of living is lower in rural areas, which means the costs of operating a business can also be lower, providing one can find the appropriate workers.

Christie notes there are 47 different federal jobs programs across dozens of agencies, most of which have no statistics telling how well they operate.  Apprenticeships have a proven track record, which is why she would like to see more emphasis on them.  She describe doing that as "Iowa sense."  

Her approach is a partnership between the Federal government and community colleges in a fashion that would not cost additional money, but instead would re-direct some of the nearly $4 billion in existing federal training funds to support an expanded apprentice program.  She would put the community colleges in charge, and encourage them to work closely with local businesses and labor unions.  

Note those last two words:  labor unions.  From my contacts in DC I know that unions are already strongly committed to helping Christie Vilsack win this seat.

I can here your minds working already -  Republicans will do anything they can to prevent labor unions from getting a benefit.  Perhaps.  But remember the Republican solution to everything is tax cuts.  Then read these words of Christie Vilsack:  

To ensure that these apprenticeships result in real jobs, I propose a tax credit for businesses that sponsor apprenticeship programs and hire their graduates. One way to do this would be to provide employers an income tax credit for two years for each apprentice they hire. That’s a powerful incentive to put people to work.

Christie Vilsack is proposing a national program, but makes clear why it is relevant to Iowa, and particularly this part of Iowa:  

An expanded national apprenticeship program would be particularly helpful to Iowa’s ag-based economy:
Elevators need well-trained maintenance workers. Implement dealers need well-trained repair technicians. Utility companies need well-trained employees to repair windmills located on farms. Manufacturers need well-trained machinists and welders to build windmills or farm machinery.

There is a lot more in this piece, and my post about is already long enough.

I strongly support Christie Vilsack for Congress.  I hope I can encourage people here to support her as well.  The election may still be a year away, but there is much that can be done now.  I hope you will visit the campaign website and see how you can help support.  I assure you that support of any kind will be welcome, financial or otherwise.

Finally, let me conclude as Christie concludes her piece:  

This is my vision for the future of rural Iowa. This is how we can ensure that our small cities and rural communities remain vibrant, and that families can continue to choose the special lifestyle they afford.

We’ve had enough of the fighting and dysfunction in Washington. It’s time to focus on what really matters to our families and our future. And that’s what my campaign for Congress is all about.

Please, support my friend Christie Vilsack for Congress from the 4th District of Iowa.


and Peace.

Originally posted to teacherken on Sun Sep 18, 2011 at 05:23 AM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, Teachers Lounge, and Education Alternatives.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (5+ / 0-)

    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Sun Sep 18, 2011 at 05:23:53 AM PDT

  •  She is smart and we were glad to have her (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    as first lady. We'll be even happier when she beats the despicable Steve King for Congress.

    Thanks for the post.

    "The Greek word for idiot, literally translated, means one who does not participate in politics. That sums up my conviction on the subject." Sen. Gladys Pyle (1890-1989)

    by Melanie in IA on Sun Sep 18, 2011 at 05:34:57 AM PDT

    •  thanks for reading (0+ / 0-)

      I hope this does not simply scroll away.  I realize the election is still more than a year away, but this will be a hard-fought contest.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Sep 18, 2011 at 05:42:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes. I am in east-central Iowa (0+ / 0-)

        so not in her district. Still I will be looking for ways to help next year. The differences between her and King are not just stylistic or philosophical. He is destructive and cruel. She is looking to lift us up, make us better.

        "The Greek word for idiot, literally translated, means one who does not participate in politics. That sums up my conviction on the subject." Sen. Gladys Pyle (1890-1989)

        by Melanie in IA on Sun Sep 18, 2011 at 05:46:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's not worthwhile to have apprenticeships... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Betty Pinson, lostinamerica

    ...for home health care workers and child care workers, because those lines of work don't pay enough.  For dental hygienists there's formal training that works just fine.  I really don't see where Vilsack is going with this.

    The Rent Is Too Damn High Party feels that if you want to marry a shoe, I'll marry you. --Jimmy McMillan

    by Rich in PA on Sun Sep 18, 2011 at 05:46:18 AM PDT

    •  in fact training requirements increasing (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Betty Pinson

      for both health care workers and child care workers in many states.  Far better to provide an avenue to earning while learning for those entering those fields.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Sep 18, 2011 at 05:48:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It seems to be like part of an inisidious process (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sayitaintso, lostinamerica which even our lowest-wage-and-benefits jobs are made harder to obtain.  Progressives may imagine that doing this will, over time, redefine these jobs as higher-skill and higher-compensation, but that's not the dynamic in our society nowadays.  My strong suspicion is that this will end up more like a Republican-inspired "training wage" or that ever-popular piece of college-age exploitation, the unpaid internship.

        The Rent Is Too Damn High Party feels that if you want to marry a shoe, I'll marry you. --Jimmy McMillan

        by Rich in PA on Sun Sep 18, 2011 at 05:50:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  it's not worthwhile to have 2 year degrees (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Betty Pinson

      in early childhood education... because graduates don't actually increase their earnings.

      Don't have a link... read the study for a labor economics paper about 5 years ago.  Washington State  guided low-income and welfare recipients into programs in early childhood and later determined that the graduates could still not support themselves and certainly not their families.

      Dental hygiene is  a 3 year Associates' degree in some states, and it does require extensive practicum.  People who can complete this  degree earn quite nicely, thank you.  They probably need apprenticeships at lower wages less than they need legislation which permits them to expand their practice.  Dentists are required now for functions that hygeinists are trained to perform.

      It's not a fake orgasm; it's a real yawn.

      by sayitaintso on Sun Sep 18, 2011 at 06:23:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I know a lot of young adults who have done... (0+ / 0-)

      apprenticeships in various non-profit or business-consulting organizations, with some being able to leverage the experience to get real jobs.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sun Sep 18, 2011 at 01:03:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  One point about the difference in pay between (0+ / 0-)

    the associate degree and the apprenticeships.  Currently many aprenticeships are associated with the trades and are run by the unions.  To get manyapprenticeships, you have to join.  On the other hand, many students who go through an associate's degree program are hoping it will help them break into the trade.  Therefore, not all will get a job, particularly a union job when done and therefore those will skew a little.

    Remember that there are at least three types of associate degrees. Associate of Science, Associate of Arts and Associate of APPLIED science.  The last is the one most often associated with the career tracks we are talking about here.  As a matter of course, if not law, those require one or more internships to complete.  Is that as good as working full time under the direction of a skilled craftsman who is truely mentoring the individual?  probably not, but still a key part of the training.

    I am in favor of apprenticeships and think we should make every effort to expand them, but they are not going to solve all the problems.  The biggest issue about apprenticeships is how the candidates are selected.  Maybe it is different/better now, but when i was "coming of age" acceptance into an apprenticeship in many trades was more about who you knew.

  •  I am concerned about the campaign she is (0+ / 0-)

    running thus far.  She has avoided hiring experienced Iowa hands and is apparently being staffed by a very young and not at all likeable man from Boston who she introduces as her campaign manager.  Like the Conlin campaign, I have heard anecdotes from people around the state that the campaign staff has her sequestered, and not communicating well with folks like current and former office-holders who could help her.

    I have asked her questions at a couple of events and gotten mushy answers that Steny would be proud of, and which would leave her safely devoid of campaign promises in areas likely to require taking tough votes.  I feel uninspired by what I have heard thus far, and have held back from contributing.

    She is really a nice person and I like her, but I do not think she is going to beat Steve King with a campaign that feels a lot like Clinton's presidential.  He is a tough and dirty little weasel and will require a better opponent than she seems thus far.  I am grateful she decided to run against him instead of taking on Dave Loebsack, which she was said to have considered, but I wish she would ditch Patrick and get someone who knows Iowa and knows how to reach out to people.

    I am off to the Steak Fry today and will be interested in what she has to say.  Thanks for writing about this campaign.  

    •  a couple of comment (0+ / 0-)

      1.  Pat, the campaign manager, ran Paul Hodes successful campaign for the House - against an incumbent Republican

      2.  The campaign has brought on Jessica Vanden Berg, who grew up in Iowa, and who managed Jim Webb's successful Senate run in 2006, yes in Virginia, also against a Republican incumbent

      3.  A number of the people around Christie are people who were involved with Tom in his runs for office - in other words, they are not illiterate about Iowa

      4.  Are you sure part of what you are hearing is not hurt feelings of people who wanted to be hired and were not?

      Christie and her campaign and her husband will read this thread.  So if there is legitimacy to your concerns, they will be known.  I sent the link to a number of key people involved with the effort.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Sep 18, 2011 at 08:08:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A partial response (0+ / 0-)

        I did not get back from the Steak Fry until very late last night, so am just checking in.  Christie was not there, which seems odd.  Neither were Braley and Loebsack.  Boswell was.  

        Regarding #4, I do not know anyone with hurt feelings.  I also don't know anyone who doesn't want her to beat King like a rented mule.  We all wish her well and Godspeed.  Jessica Vanden Berg is well-respected and liked, and I am glad to hear that she is helping out.

        I am not willing to put more then I wrote above into a public forum.  Anyone can read here.  I will send you a message directly, but first I am going to backtrack with some of the people I talked to (in some cases weeks ago) and get a feel for what they are thinking now.  That may take a few days.

        •  actually now irrelevant (0+ / 0-)

          as I discovered after I posted this -  Patrick Brown is no longer with campaign.  While they are looking for another full-time manager Jessica Vanden Berg is in charge day-to-day.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Tue Sep 20, 2011 at 04:20:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I actually started my career as an apprentice (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Paul Ferguson, lostinamerica

    in London.  It was in printing production (a management, not union position), and I learned everything there was to know about printing inside and out.  I became good enough to be in charge of everything from Peter Max limited edition reproductions to Pantone sheets.

    It led me to a long-term mid-town Manhattan upper-management position with a major French fashion house/perfumier with a window office of my own at age 21.

    So I would say apprenticeships are a great deal, if people take advantage of the opportunity.  I learned far more in practical skills within a corporate structure in 4 years as an apprentice than I would have if I had spent money to go to college.  

    Now, as back then, kids graduate college but still don't know the basics of working life - like how to compose a memo, how to answer the phone, or what the major departments of a company do, let alone know the nuances of a particular job.  By the time my friends who did go to college graduated, I had 4 years of actual experience on them and could easily outcompete them.  It annoyed them to no end.

    But this was back in the 80's when corporations were expected to do their employee training, taking on someone in an 'entry level' job (remember those -do they still have those?) and training them up through the corporate structure.

    Now they expect people to come pre-trained and to fit perfectly into a given slot, which means a lot of the burden of educational expense now falls on the individual - and that education is still fairly meaningless without actual experience.

    A story like mine could never happen today.

  •  Ken... Glad you are giving us a heads up... (0+ / 0-)

    about Vilsack and her apprenticeship plan.  I think apprenticeships are one of those many educational paths that can be a supplement, or even an alternative to a more academic-focused classroom education.

    Certainly both my now young adult kids are experiential learners who crave real world experiences to help them grow and develop.

    Cooper Zale Los Angeles

    by leftyparent on Sun Sep 18, 2011 at 01:01:04 PM PDT

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