Every once in a while, you learn about something the state is doing that is so weird, so counter-intuitive, that you wonder, just for a moment, if you're the subject of some kind of Punk'd-style TV show. Such is the case with the new "Career Coaches" the state has just rolled out:
Governor Haslam and the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development today unveiled three vehicles designed to improve outcomes for those looking for work. Three “Career Coaches” were customized with 10 computer workstations with Internet access, printers, fax machines, and flat screen TV’s with SMART Board overlays to facilitate classroom instruction. The intent of these roving offices is to bring job matching and training to rural communities that have limited access to a Tennessee Career Center.
This is baffling. Is the reason rural Tennesseans are unemployed simply because they didn't have an RV in which to fill out applications? Seriously?
This smells like a costly publicity stunt to me. I mean, for starters, I don't know if anyone in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development has filled out an application for a shit job lately. Having watched people dear to me go through this for the past year, let me tell you — they don't call you any more. If you find out anything one way or another about a job, it's through email or through websites that track applications. So what good is it going to do people to apply for jobs or apply for unemployment benefits on computers that then leave town?!
Wouldn't communities be better served by making sure local libraries have sufficient computer equipment available to everyone who needs it? Or open more career centers?
Also: People are out of work ... and we're blowing over half a million dollars on glorified party buses? It's hilarious. Disgusting, but hilarious. (Is it as disgusting as giving your buddies huge raises while you cut jobs? I leave that to you to decide, dear reader.)
But here's the thing I really don't understand — why do these Jobs Party Buses cost so much? $188,000 apiece? This vehicle looks pretty identical to this vehicle. A Fleetwood Jamboree is going to run you $75,000-$100,000 MSRP. Sure, we got non-standard innards, but our non-standard innards aren't fancier than what a top end Jamboree will run you. Plus they don't have to run plumbing.
Even if you spent $1,000 per computer for some reason — and let's say 10 computers in the back and one up front for the staff — that's $11,000. $200 a chair? That's $2,000. Flat-screen TV? No way that's going to run you more than $1,000. Printers? What? $100 apiece? That's another $1,000. You can pick up a fax machine for a couple hundred bucks. Shoot, you can get a printer/scanner/copier for $250, easy.
I'm having a hard time spending $115,000 on this set-up. Okay, sure, they need Internet access wherever they are, but how much can that possibly be? A couple thousand dollars? Maybe a fancy decal and paint job runs you a few thousand dollars? I mean, I'm trying to top-end things here, but ... I have to say, I'm not seeing where that $188,000 per vehicle is going unless we got ripped off.
And that's what makes me wonder if this isn't some kind of elaborate prank on the taxpayers. Eventually, Gov. Haslam and Ashton Kutcher will jump out and scream, "Got you! Like we would really spend way more than necessary to transport computers that people can only use once!"
(See Rachel for a thoughtful consideration of the complete disservice this does to libraries.)
At least, god, I hope this is an intentional joke.