Is Our Jobs Leaving?

The Canadian press was only too happy to trumpet the decision of Toyota to build an $800 million plant in Woodstock, Ontario, despite the lure of heftier subsidies in competing southern US states.

But [Gerry] Fedchun [president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association] said much of that extra money would have been eaten away by higher training costs than are necessary for the Woodstock project. He said Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce. In Alabama, trainers had to use "pictorials" to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech plant equipment.

"The educational level and the skill level of the people down there is so much lower than it is in Ontario," Fedchun said

The story has been almost entirely ignored in the US, except for the exception taken by The Decatur Daily News, which defended the smarts of Alabamans, but without any reference to the state's notoriously dismal educational stats and rankings. This is not to denigrate the native intelligence of our Southern cousins nor to overlook the efforts of successful state programs like Alabama Industrial Development Training, but, in attracting new jobs, school quality does matter.

And it's not the only point in the Canadians' favor:

In addition to lower training costs, Canadian workers are also $4 to $5 cheaper to employ partly thanks to the taxpayer-funded health-care system in Canada, said federal Industry Minister David Emmerson. "Most people don't think of our health-care system as being a competitive advantage," he said.

Compare that with General Motors adding about $1,600 to the price of every vehicle for non-taxpayer-funded health care.

Note to the nitpickers: Yes, as one commenter eventually noted, the headline is a play on what I thought was a famous Bushism, not an editing error. I'm too fond of puns.