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A stroll around the Paris Air Show begs this question: Why aren't more young people, particularly men, going into high-tech manufacturing, where the sky's the limit in employment opportunities?

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A stroll around the Paris Air Show begs this question: Why aren’t more young people, particularly men, going into high-tech manufacturing, where the sky’s the limit in employment opportunities?

PARIS—Walking around the world’s largest air show in Paris, France, I’ve discovered that there is no economic crisis if one is willing to look hard enough to escape it.  The Paris Air Show should be dubbed “The World Capitalism Festival,” because what I witnessed here was unfettered capitalism and free-market competition at its finest.  I was so deeply moved that I nearly burst into tears in front of an Aster 30 missile, in all its phallic excellence.
 
Here, there’s no need for any politician to waterboard companies with the green Kool-Aid.  The hottest item at this year’s air show is Airbus’ A320 NEO, a “green” plane that netted a record 730 orders for a total of $72.2 billion.  If America’s Boeing hopes to compete and move beyond its $22 billion in orders, it’ll have to catch up and produce something similar.  The NEO’s big attraction is that it’s 15% more fuel-efficient than a classic A320.  With fuel costs representing one-third of airline expenses, no government official has to legislate this plane into existence.
 
From free-market success also comes employment explosion.  Among the 2,100 exhibitors, many with whom I was able to speak, all said they were hiring.  Specifically, they’re in desperate need of workers with technical skills, engineers, builders, producers—and they couldn’t find enough people to fill these positions.  Many were recruiting on-site at the show.
 
These are highly skilled jobs you can’t fake.  The negative consequences of faking one’s abilities in manufacturing a plane or defense system should be kind of obvious.  It’s therefore highly unlikely that jobs in this field will be snapped up by some hombre fresh off of jumping the southern border.  They’re mostly globalization-proof.

So where are all our workers in this field?  This is the West’s top-tier manufacturing base, in which democracies are outcompeting oppressive regimes such as China and Russia.  Malaysia’s Air Asia, for example, bought $18.2 billion worth of Airbuses, not a Chinese or Russian brand.  This is the playing field on which we are beating our ideological enemy.
 
The fact that companies can’t fill these jobs is suggestive of a serious systemic problem in Western society: economic deindustrialization.  According to the American Prospect, manufacturing represented only 11.5% of America’s economic output in 2008, compared with 28% in 1959.  Meanwhile, our young people have never been better educated.  I’d suggest that’s actually a big part of the problem.  Rather than going to university and college to learn engineering, math and applicable scientific skills, many Westerners are encouraged by their parents to strive for law school, business school, or some Ivy League flake-o liberal arts degree.  The end result is that when kids aren’t being educated way beyond their intelligence, then they’re being educated on the most useless topics imaginable.
 
 
One might blame this phenomenon on the feminization of society in general.  Why aren’t most men going into engineering and manufacturing anymore or being encouraged to do so?  As a woman who graduated from a university with a degree in hard sciences, even I briefly considered a career in engineering—until I realized that I could never spend all day, every day, crunching numbers.  But I’m a woman, not to mention a heterosexual one.  I don’t even do oil changes or follow baseball statistics.  And, statistically speaking, as a woman, my left inferior parietal lobe—the brain’s math center where Albert Einstein was abnormally well-endowed—is markedly smaller than a man’s.  Unless I’m some kind of mutant, I can’t escape that biological reality.
 
 
Still, I grew up playing with dump trucks rather than dolls.  If a Barbie doll ever crossed my path, it just ended up cargo for the back of my dump truck, along with any of her accessories.  I can only conclude that my biological brain structure ultimately overrode my environment and upbringing, despite my parents’ best efforts.  I excelled at math, physics and calculus, but didn’t enjoy it enough to make a career out of it.  Granted, I still love studying airplanes and military weaponry—but only in their greater strategic context.  I’d lose my mind if I had to immerse myself in the intricacies of building them.  Not to say that there aren’t women who are different from me, and who have a genuine affinity for these careers—and perhaps that difference is ultimately biological.
 
So I can logically, albeit perhaps somewhat politically incorrectly, answer the question of why I’m personally not cut out for the manufacturing industry.  But the fact that men who are fully equipped for such things aren’t gravitating to this wide-open job market is baffling and problematic.  They can’t all have tiny left inferior parietal lobes!
 
Because so many parents seem to be encouraging their sons to enter management positions—and laughingly expecting them to land in the executive suite of a major corporation right after their MBA—perhaps it would be a good strategy for these high-tech manufacturing companies to attract skilled workers by offering them a meritocratic career advancement path to management up front.
 
If America and the West have any hope for rebuilding our manufacturing base and crushing China someday while not letting go of our values, these are the kinds of questions we need to openly address.

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Rachel Marsden is an international political and communications strategist based in Paris, France. http://www.rachelmarsden.com

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