by James DeChene
Two stories mentioned in this week’s Legislative Report bear some additional coverage. The first, from the News Journal editorial “Hard Economic Lessons For Delaware” pinpoints what the State Chamber has been talking about for the last few years, specifically on what appears to be a lackluster recovery from the Great Recession. With metrics and rankings all over the map, the picture of how Delaware’s economy has fared over the last few years remains murky at best. What remains, regardless of economic rankings is that public education, and other quality of life issues such as public safety, remain areas where much work needs to be done regardless of how Delaware compares economically to other states across the country and within our region.
The other story comes from the Wall Street Journal outlining how factories are struggling to find workers. This is a story that rings true here in Delaware. For local manufacturers, a third of their collective workforce could retire within the next few years, leaving a major vacuum in employment. Add to that the profound difficulty manufacturers are having in finding suitable replacements, not just for engineering or management positions, but, most problematically, for entry level workers not requiring an advanced degree. Working together with the Delaware Manufactures Association, DelTech and the Governor’s office, we have started a successful program to help prepare high school students for these jobs. But and the range and scope of the education issues Delaware faces has become stark.
This is becoming a constant, and repeated, refrain, from the State Chamber of Commerce and our members—Delaware’s education system requires a revamp if we want to have a workforce competitive to those around us– regionally, nationally and internationally. We are currently the 5th highest spend per student for the end result of 33% of Delaware 8th graders are proficient in math and English, with 60% of high school graduates who enroll at DelTech requiring remedial classes.
These results do nothing to push Delaware forward, and will soon have even more of an impact on Delaware’s economic rankings when businesses choose not to come to Delaware because they don’t have access to a strong and vibrant (and educated) workforce. The News Journal has it right that education reform is a key component in securing Delaware’s future.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.