About four centuries ago, an Englishman named Bacon blazed a trail on the path a Nevadan named Bacon follows to this day.
Francis Bacon, credited with being among the fathers of modern science, in his writings captured the catalytic thought of his age. Some others knew it, even practiced it, but he uttered the relevant truth in a fashion that still resonates. As that era’s Bacon — a lawyer, statesman, author and champion of the scientific method — put it: “Nature can only be commanded by knowing her.”
He captured it even more lucidly, however, and so is even better known for this succinct rendition of the same thought: “Knowledge is power.”
Today’s Ray Bacon, who heads the Nevada Manufacturers Association, pushes the essence of that message now, in concert with others. He tries to alert parents and students knowledge with practical applications in industrial pursuits is power that can translate into a good life for young people. Today’s factories are no longer smoke-belching behemoths of boring and dehumanizing work.
Often they’re places where the wizardry of applied scientific and technological knowledge gets wielded to produce wealth by making actual things, not via services or other means.
Today’s Bacon understands it takes a learning-driven work force to get such jobs done. He and others advocate solid grounding in basics — reading, writing, mathematics, science, business and technology — while they decry Nevada’s training shortcomings. Despite improvement, Bacon said, there’s still a long way to go.
He cites improved secondary and postsecondary education in places, though there are “pockets of abject failure” as well as “rays of hope.” He also stressed the importance of the community college system.
“That’s where the work force of the future is going to be,” he said.
The state needs young people with some pertinent postsecondary training, he said; in other words, the kind of people interested in more than just a high school credential, whatever job comes along and the pursuit of weekend fun.
“In industry, the jobs are going to change on a regular basis,” Bacon said. So he lamented budget problems community colleges have faced even as need for both basics and tech-oriented manufacturing skills increased. But he said he and colleagues keep working to help two-year colleges and to interest young people in obtaining sound training wherever available to take advantage of manufacturing, mining or related opportunities in Nevada.
“If we have kids who come out of high school that have really solid fundamental skills, they’re trainable,” he said, and they can make a decent living in industries by their early 20s.
An issue, however, may be one of opportunity. Even if more kids get interested, do community colleges have the capacity? Time will tell, as the old saw goes, but not yet. Ramping up takes time.
“We are not going to have problems producing the quality (workers) Tesla, Panasonic and others need,” said Bacon, “but we are going to have a problem producing the quantity from our junior colleges.”
Additional counsel from the Bacon of yore undoubtedly resonates with today’s Bacon, as it should for any of the ambitious young people the Nevadan is trying to help.
“Wise men make more opportunities than they find,” Francis Bacon once wrote.
John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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