The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


September 4, 2012

Do we want to work?


Tom Witt has long been looked to across West Virginia for providing us with solid business and economic analysis and data.

The retired WVU business school professor offered up another dose of reality last week when speaking at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s annual business summit.

Witt says that just shy of 54 percent of West Virginians of working age are actually doing so and that the state continues to lag significantly behind the rest of the nation in education, a key to having a healthy, qualified workforce.

If we were keeping up with the rest of the country, Witt says we would have another 50,000 people employed and our per capita income wouldn’t rank 48th, it would be closer to 40th.

“Those saying we have hard-working West Virginians have it wrong,” Witt said. “Hardly working is more like it.”

Brutal honesty.

Sometimes people don’t like the truth, but take a long, hard look around.

Approximately half of our working population is without employment and while some of those may want to be earning a paycheck, far too many West Virginians rely on a check from the government to survive.

The entitlement mentality.

This isn’t anything new, and while Witt did say that during the past 20 years more West Virginians are pursuing and earning college degrees, we are not progressing fast enough compared to the rest of the country.

And the exodus of our young, talented college graduates continues as well.

It would be easy to point the finger and say there aren’t enough job opportunities and economic development officials are failing in bringing us more of those opportunities.

But it is easy for any prospective business out there to look inside the real facts and see that we don’t have enough of an educated workforce, and enough people willing to work, to fill jobs.

West Virginians need to stop complaining about no jobs and make the tough commitment to reforming and upgrading our educational system from top to bottom.

Until that is done, expect us to continue suffering when it comes to good jobs and economic diversification.

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