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the apprentice … (revised 8/12)

Government is good at one thing: It knows how to break your legs, hand you a crutch,
and say, “See, if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk.”
– Harry Browne

Harry also liked to challenge people and audiences to “Name your favorite government program” before proceeding to shred it with logic and examples… if they had a favorite program, which more often than not they didn’t.

Job Corps MasonryWe live near the Trapper Creek Job Corps Center. Kids who have not had much success in life are granted entry into this federal program that places them into a dormitory, feeds them, enforces fairly tight rules and enrolls them in one of several on-site trade schools. I am now acquainted with over a dozen success stories.

Aha! Perhaps I have found that elusive good government program.

Was this the exception to the rule? I pondered it a bit.

The Job Corps program has more elements of the old indentured servant system than an apprentice program, but is very much like both in most ways. Job Corps enrollees agree to follow the rules, stick with the program and graduate with a technician certificate on one of many trades in a year or two, depending on their progress in a coached self-paced program.

According to their reports, each year, Job Corps serves more than 60,000 new enrollees at a cost of more than $1 billion… $17,000 per student. Upon graduation, 90% find jobs. You gotta admit, that beats current college statistics by a huge margin.

Of course there are those who hide from as much work as they can, lean on shovels while others dig and so on. The instructors aren’t necessarily successful in their trades, but just the most successful applicant for the teaching job. The trades aren’t necessarily in high demand, but what local management chooses to offer. There is no competition to refine anyone involved or any aspect of Job Corps … and it is, of course, funded involuntarily with your money.

An indentured servant would agree to a fixed-length contract of specified labor in exchange for travel, room, board and/or some start on his new life at the end of the period. The master would calculate the deal to give him return on his investment. Both would enter the contract figuring their benefit exceeded the costs.

An apprentice accepted a reduced-wage for a given period of time in exchange for training and experience in a valuable trade. The journeyman got the benefit of lower-cost labor in exchange for imparting the skills and knowledge he had accumulated in his career.

In both of those cases, the teachers had to simultaneously work and train their charges in competitive environments. They must have met or exceeded the quality, quantity and value of others plying their trade in order to have work and stay in business. Only the tradesmen who were in demand could afford to take these helpers on. Apprentices and indentured servants had to be productive, and gained all of their work experience in the challenging, hard-working world of private enterprise.

Serving the same market, though not contractual like job corps or their free-market predecessors were entry-level jobs. People hired on in some trade or industry with wages, salaries and responsibilities rising as their value to employers increased.

Why don’t these free-market, self-funding programs exist today?

Minimum wages and maximum overhead: Government will not allow employees to be paid at market value in cases where the market value is below some politically-set minimum. Government imposes wage and salary overhead that effectively doubles the cost of the employer’s payment to the worker.

Few masters can afford to take on inexperienced employees, any lacking work-ethic, those without training, etcetera. Only a government program can afford to take in those who have not succeeded in any job anywhere.

According to the USofA Department of Labor, unemployment in the age group served by the Job Corps program is now 20,000,000 16-24-year olds. Of the 20 million that government mandates keep out of work, they help 60,000 learn some job skills.

In other words, entry-level programs don’t exist today

because the government broke their legs,

then graciously doled out crutches to 0.3% of the victims.