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posted by LaminatorX on Saturday April 12 2014, @08:34AM   Printer-friendly
from the If-only-we-had-crumbling-infrastructure-in-need-of-repair. dept.

Barry Levine writes that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is urging environmentalists to have some compassion for the coal miners they help put out of work because they can't be easily retrained to do other jobs. "Mark Zuckerberg says you can teach them to code and everything will be great. I don't know how to break it to you but no" said Bloomberg. "You're not going to teach a coal miner to code." Bloomberg, who is an environmental activist, said while he gives "a lot of money to the Sierra Club" to shut down coal-fired power plants and to promote green energy projects, society needs to "have some compassion to do it gently."

Thousands of coal mining jobs have been shed throughout the country, there were about two thousand fewer coal miners in March 2014 than at the same time last year. Coal-reliant states, like Kentucky have been hit especially hard with more than 2,200 mining jobs lost in that state alone last year a 23 percent decline. Bloomberg suggested subsidies to help displaced workers, like coal miners, and maybe even retaining. But Bloomberg said retraining isn't always an option, especially in an economy becoming increasingly tech savvy. Bloomberg stressed the need for the retraining to be "realistic."

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by gishzida on Saturday April 12 2014, @09:04AM

    by gishzida (2870) on Saturday April 12 2014, @09:04AM (#30479) Journal

    Can you say: "Would you like fries with that?"

    To be less sarcastic: The success of retraining depends on the desire of the person being trained and the actual "meaningfulness" of the new job. Inn 1996 I was accepted into a 6 month government sponsored retraining program to retrain 60 displaced "technical people" in network administration. I think I am the only person in that retraining class that actually got a job as an admin. It wasn't that they weren't capable [some were employees of Packard-Bell computer which moved out of L.A. after the 1994 earthquake] one was even a "network architect" [i.e. routers and protocols]. I happened to be the "rocket-science-technician" of the group.

    Where reality hits the pavement is how desirable the new job is actuality, how willing the trainees are [do they want the training and possibly pull up roots], and, most importantly, how potential employers view them. Given that ageism is part of the new group-think of corporate America, you can be sure that the people over 50 are not going to be considered as useful... and won't be hired.

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by BsAtHome on Saturday April 12 2014, @09:45AM

    by BsAtHome (889) on Saturday April 12 2014, @09:45AM (#30492)

    > I happened to be the "rocket-science-technician" of the group.

    Let me then put the sarcasm hat on; in the land of the blind, one-eye is King.

    The fact that one can do a job does not necessarily mean you can do a /good/ job. To get back on topic, trying to teach coding to anybody is a catastrophe waiting to happen. There a are probably some who can learn to do a decent job (and will succeed at it), but most will be mediocre or right-out bad coders. Do we really need more bad code? Haven't you ever read thedailywtf?

    China once ordered the entire peasant workforce to make steel because they had not enough and wanted to become more industrialized. How hard could it be to build an oven and make steel? The quality of their produce was so low that it could not be used for anything useful in particular. Lesson: even if you can produce something, it does not follow that it can be used for anything if the quality cannot match the demand.

    BTW, the fact that hiring practices are age-discriminatory does not change the quality of the re-schooled workers. It is a (bad) societal problem. It also goes for people who have been in the loop previously and have the talent. They also get discriminated.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by khallow on Saturday April 12 2014, @11:24AM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 12 2014, @11:24AM (#30512) Journal

      China once ordered the entire peasant workforce to make steel

      They also made brick factories. I understand the main product of the brick factories was more brick factories.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by captain normal on Saturday April 12 2014, @03:57PM

      by captain normal (2205) on Saturday April 12 2014, @03:57PM (#30542)

      The key is in your last sentence..."have the talent". Coding, like many other complex activities (music, design, finance, science...) requires a certain amount of talent in addition to many hours of practice on top of knowledge. There well may be some people in the coal mining areas who can be good coders. The problem is that not everyone is (nor should be) inclined to write code. Any retraining program should be geared toward getting people to find their own individual talent and develop that.

      Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts"- --Daniel Patrick Moynihan--
      • (Score: 3, Informative) by frojack on Saturday April 12 2014, @06:11PM

        by frojack (1554) on Saturday April 12 2014, @06:11PM (#30569) Journal

        The key is in your last sentence..."have the talent"

        And yet, Bloomberg was pilloried for making the statement. He was outright accused of insulting miners' intelligence.

        True, there may be a couple of latent programmers working in the coal mines simply because that was the job available in their area, and it was necessary to put food on the table.

        Coal miners make pretty decent money these days. (Arguably better than programmers, at almost twice the national average [] income). They can afford the latest computer gadgets. Its not like they have zero exposure to the tech sector.

        Today's workforce is mobile and fluid. People aren't born into jobs anymore. Any with talent can, and probably already have found jobs in technology. That leaves people with either no interest, no education, or no talent who choose to remain in mining.

        So Bloomberg was right. People suited for other fields probably already made that choice, and those with skills best used in mining have already chosen mining. Turning miners into coders is bound to be harder simply because they have already selected their career path according to their talents and wishes.

        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 1) by gishzida on Sunday April 13 2014, @03:36AM

      by gishzida (2870) on Sunday April 13 2014, @03:36AM (#30677) Journal

      > Let me then put the sarcasm hat on; in the land of the blind, one-eye is King.

      In that case I was the deaf, dumb, and fugly step child. There were people in those classes that were clearly smarter than me... and most of them certainly had more wallpaper [i.e. a college degree of some kind]... what seems to be lacking was a real desire to work in the field. In some cases work is all about your dedication and willingness to "show up" and "be present"

      Now 18 years later I can understand why... having been consistently beaten to improve my morale then tossed on the compost heap by an "evil clown" I find I don't want to go back to network administration... I don't mind the hardware and I can do well enough with the software and configuration and troubleshooting... but there is no solution to the problem of management ignorance and cruelty... but I just don't want to go back to deal with management that is interested in stuffing their own pockets while they screw everyone else. Yes-- I worked at some pretty piss-poor places.

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12 2014, @07:27PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12 2014, @07:27PM (#30584)

    If you bury 9 bones and release 10 dogs, 1 of those dogs is not going to get a bone.
    It doesn't matter how much TRAINING you give that dog who failed, the next time you repeat the experiment, 1 dog will end up without a bone.
    The problem is NOT a lack of training.
    The problem is that there aren't enough bones. [] (orig) []

    Additionally, when there is an actual shortage of something, the price of that something goes up.
    Supply and demand; this is Economics 101.
    If there was a shortage of coders, there would be a bidding war for coders.
    The fact is that there is already a surplus of coders.
    People training as coders are simply depressing the market farther by flooding it with supply when there isn't an increased demand.
    Again, Economics 101.

    The logical place to put the surplus labor of displaced coal miners would be in manufacturing and installing SUSTAINABLE ENERGY mechanisms.[1]
    The Green Party presidential last time around had such a plan. []
    (How do I know that none of you heard about that, as you were consuming lamestream media?)
    The longer the USA puts off a real push on sustainable energy, the more of that market (read: jobs and profits) slips away and develops elsewhere.

    [1] If the USA gov't is going to subsidize something, EFFICIENCY would be another excellent market in which to invest.
    Another way to say that in broad strokes is INSULATION.

    -- gewg_