This has somehow lead to Stacey Campfield volunteering to live on $1,200 a month for one month, because whenever people are suffering, I guess it's important to show that they're only suffering because they're stupid, and you, big manly super-genius, could live on their unemployment check, no problem. Honestly, how the fact that Stacey Campfield can do it means that everyone who is doing it is just doing it because they're not trying hard enough to find jobs is beyond me. I suspect this stunt is supposed to distract us from the fact that Lt. Gov. Ramsey thinks that almost 10% of our population is just lazy and abusing the system.
But if the serious folks can talk for a moment, Ramsey does inadvertently say something very important that seems to be being lost in the hoopla. Ramsey says that he's talked to a trucking company that can't find truck drivers and a heating and air-conditioning company that can't find techs.
Now, I think it's obvious to people who are actually concerned about putting Tennesseans back to work that these are good jobs that pay pretty OK money. So, if they're going empty, it's not because 10% of the population would rather sit on the couch watching TV, it's because there aren't enough truck drivers or HVAC techs to go around. In other words, people aren't qualified for these jobs and can't get qualified, so they sit empty.
Take Stacey Campfield's exciting challenge. Say Campfield loses his job and he eats through his savings. He's got nothing but the $1,200 a month he gets from unemployment, $225 of which is going to his rent and probably another, let's say, $150 going to utilities. I'm assuming he's let his health insurance lapse. That leaves him $725. Okay, let's say he eats frugally and spends only $200 a month on groceries. He's got $525 left. He needs a car, so let's say he's got himself a really inexpensive one and his car payment is only $100 a month. Let's say his insurance is $90.
By my calculations, he's got $335 dollars and he hasn't paid for gas or a phone yet, which are absolutely imperative to have when looking for a job. That's granting that Campfield lives like a monk. Now, let's say that Campfield hears about these two jobs from Ramsey and he decides HVAC tech would be a great job and he wants to go for it.
The HVAC technician program at the Tennessee Technology Center in Murfreesboro requires almost 1,300 hours of courses. HVAC II alone costs $288.
I don't think Campfield could take that course and pay for gas and a phone — and Campfield's single with no kids. A single mother on unemployment or a father with a stay-at-home wife who's lost his job?
The money to pay for the training and licensing they need IS NOT THERE. So, here's my question — why doesn't the state figure out a way to match willing potential workers with the training they need? If Stacey Campfield comes to me and I own an HVAC place and I think "Yeah, he seems like he'd be good for this job," why isn't there some way for me to say "Hey, check out this program the state runs. They'll help you get training and I'll have a job waiting for you when you're done." It could be low-interest deferred loans or grants or something.
Wouldn't it be better to retrain people for the open jobs rather than blaming them and calling them lazy because they're not already qualified? I mean, yes, I know that's not as much fun, but the time for publicity stunts is long over. We need to be putting people back to work.