Minimum wage, technical training take the spotlight

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Proponents of a $15 minimum wage got a setback with the release of a major, credible study of conditions in Seattle, where officials voted three years ago to incrementally increase the city’s minimum wage up to that level.

A group of economists at the University of Washington, commissioned by the city, concluded that the average low-wage Seattle worker lost $125 a month because of the hike in the minimum wage.

The costs to low-wage workers outweighed the benefits by a ratio of three to one, according to the working paper published Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The paper has yet to be peer-reviewed.

We haven’t seen a similar study for Nebraska, which raised its minimum wage to $9 an hour on Jan. 1, 2016, but we doubt it would show similar results, or at least as dramatic.

Market forces of supply and demand have been effective in raising worker pay, with many employers already finding it necessary to pay above the $9 rate to attract workers to entry-level jobs.

That seems to be true on the local and state level, and probably even more so on the national level, with a $7.25 minimum wage or $2.13 for workers who receive tips.

The debate over forcing employers to pay a higher minimum wage is far from over, with automation, immigration and other factors an important part of the mix.

There is little debate that skilled workers deserve higher wages, however, and many of those jobs, as television personality Mike Rowe likes to point out, don’t require four-year degrees.

Schools like McCook Community College can provide a pathway to many of those jobs, and the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis has again gained national attention by being ranked by Forbes business magazine as one of the top 30 Two-Year Trade Schools.

NCTA was ranked No. 27 by Forbes in its first-time analysis and rating of two-year “trade schools” in the United States.

Most the ranked colleges, judged on graduate earnings, college affordability and academic quality, were nursing colleges and engineering technology colleges.

Only one agriculture college made the list, the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, noted NCTA Dean Ron Rosati.

Rosati announced the recognition Saturday to applause from the school’s Aggie Alumni Association 2017 annual banquet.

“This assessment is the latest in a series of many documenting that NCTA provides access to outstanding academic programs in a cost-effective manner,” Rosati noted.

“I appreciate the creativity and hard work from the college’s faculty and staff that results in this type of student success.”

NCTA offers associate of science or associate of applied science degrees and certificates in agricultural business management, agricultural education, agricultural equipment, agronomy, animal science, equine management, horticulture, irrigation technology, veterinary technology and welding.

The study, and NCTA’s recognition should provide significant guidance for high school graduates struggling to plan their future.

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