Scott Wagner: “My number one priority is going to be education.”
2018 Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner joined WHP’s Ken Matthews yesterday to discuss his campaign to clean up Harrisburg. Wagner pointed out that, as governor, he will prioritize educational reforms that will address a multitude of problems plaguing the Commonwealth.
Listen to the interview HERE.
SCOTT WAGNER: I have two priorities. My number one priority is going to be education. I believe that we need to retool and reinvent our current education system. I think we have a lot of good teachers in place, we have a lot of good programs in place, but what I’m hearing from educators, I’m hearing from school districts, school superintendents and school boards, the number of mandates that are pushed on these school districts are choking these districts. There is just so much testing going on and stuff like that. And Ken, I believe if we really focus on education we are going to be able to solve a couple of issues. Number one, we have a skilled labor crisis in Pennsylvania. We probably have 200,000 skilled labor positions open in PA. We need to start talking at an earlier period in a student’s life – probably more like fourth, fifth, sixth grade – about potentially going into the trades and make sure that schools have industrial arts programs. Because listen, the average trade position that I know of at a starting base is around $50,000, which is pretty good. So if we can start getting more kids focused on the trade side that will help us solve the skilled labor crisis. I mean I constantly hear from people and other politicians out there – and listen, I’m not a politician I’m an elected official. I’m a business owner, I got elected, I’m not an insider. But I keep hearing people talking about bringing more jobs back to Pennsylvania, well listen, I think we need to continue to focus on that, but our priority should be to try to find 200,000 people that could fill the skilled labor positions. So there is retooling and reengineering that needs to be done in the school districts.
KEN MATTHEWS: Well there’s a lot of money to be made in the trades. I just read an article in Bloomberg about three weeks ago that there are thousands of jobs in construction that are six figure jobs and the complaint is they can’t find qualified candidates to do $2,000 a week construction jobs.
SCOTT WAGNER: Well, Ken, there’s a big shift going on right now. We have 10,000 people a day turning 65 for the next 20 years all across this country. Think about the people that are working in a machine shop, an electrician, someone who works in the construction industry – I mean I know a lot of people in construction that are now retiring. They are in their late sixties, they want to retire, they’ve done well, but you are right, we don’t have the people to fill those positions. And Ken, I know you live up in the Allentown area, I heard a really staggering statistic a couple of months ago, I heard, – and this goes back to the education discussion – I heard that the Allentown School District has a dropout rate of between 30 and 35 percent.
KEN MATTHEWS: Yeah. It’s staggering. It’s an incredible statistic but it’s true.
SCOTT WAGNER: And think about all those kids that are dropping out and think about if we retool and reinvent our education system and start talking to these young people at an earlier age and engage them and maybe have trades training in school and we catch them before they drop out. And Ken, you and I could speculate as to the percentage of dropout students that end up in the criminal justice system. Well just think, if we could catch these young people before they drop out of school – listen not everybody is college bound, and who knows, maybe some of these young folks that are getting bored in school that potentially could be a dropout statistic, maybe we catch them earlier, if we save them, maybe we keep them out of the criminal justice system. Ken, listen, I talk a lot about the problems in Pennsylvania. But I’m telling you, if you are true leader and you understand, which I feel I am, I see opportunity to really attack some of these issues and really solve them. We’ve got an elephant here in Pennsylvania, and you know the old saying, if you are going to eat an elephant you have to eat a bite at a time. But we have to eat a little faster than we have in the past because time is running out.