Papas Fritas writes:
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."
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.
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 [nma.org] 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.