A Business Champion Speaks Up

Erick Ajax owns and operates a family-owned manufacturing business in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and has doubled the number of employees in the past three years — to 50 — from the depths of the manufacturing recession of a few years ago. His small firm is so successful that he exports his high quality metal stamped parts extensively, even to China. America needs more entrepreneurs like Erick Ajax.

So we should pay attention when a business champion like Erick takes the time to pen an op-ed for his local paper. Kudos as well to the St. Paul Pioneer Press for seeing the value of his commentary and publishing it on May 2.

Mr. Ajax splashes some inconvenient cold water in his essay that may make some people fidget. He points out that only 60 percent of the students in Minneapolis-St. Paul public high schools graduate in four years. Only 24 percent enroll in high education within two years of graduating from high school. Going further along the educational spectrum, he notes that, among college students, only about half will graduate in four to six years. This in not just a Minnesota problem — it is national in scale. What happens to those young people who get no degree at all?

Fortunately, Mr. Ajax is not calling for everyone to get a four-year college degree as too many politicians do every election year. He’s a realist. He knows that the calls for every kid to go to a four-year college is ignoring reality and — what’s worse — ignoring the fates of those young people who don’t want to go to that kind of college and would do best with a technical education or a degree from a two-year community college.

His op-ed lays out why this shift in the American outlook on education is so important for his company, for manufacturing and for this country.

Mr. Ajax points out that more than 80 percent of employers report that applicants with a two-year degree or certificate from a community or technical college are prepared for entry-level jobs, compared with only half that for high school grads. For manufacturers, education and training matter a lot. About 90 percent of manufacturers are facing a shortage of skilled production employees such as machinists, craft workers adn technicians. These are high-paying and challenging jobs with great benefits.

He and other executives are increasingly looking to the Minnesota community and technical colleges which are providing high-quality education in skill sets that are in high demand, with over 93 percent of graduates finding a job after graduation. Mr. Ajax’s essay is worth reading; just click here for it.