PI Original Josh Kalven Wednesday December 3rd, 2008, 10:55am

Dan Swinney's Got A Plan

Amid all the twelve-figure bailouts and theoretical arguments about how to repair the American economy, I was so relieved to hear Dan Swinney's comments last Sunday as a guest on Bruce DuMont's Beyond The Beltway.  Swinney is a labor guy and, as such, has a very practical, on-...

Amid all the twelve-figure bailouts and theoretical arguments about how to repair the American economy, I was so relieved to hear Dan Swinney's comments last Sunday as a guest on Bruce DuMont's Beyond The Beltway.  Swinney is a labor guy and, as such, has a very practical, on-the-ground perspective when it comes to reversing our economic troubles and regaining competitiveness on the global stage.  He sees the big picture and, unlike many, is focused on the "opportunity" in this crisis. But at the same time he has started small -- specifically, with a high school on Chicago's West Side. 

As we wrote in a feature article last summer, Austin Polytechnical Academy seeks to train local teenagers as skilled laborers who can fill vacant, high-paying positions in the city's industrial sector.  The school, which opened its doors in the fall of 2007, is part of the Chicago Public Schools' Renaissance 2010 program and there are several other similar institutions scheduled to pop up around the city in the coming years.

While there was already plenty of support for Swinney's model before the financial meltdown, interest in replicating it elsewhere is rapidly growing these days.  As Swinney explains in the clip below, Barack Obama has endorsed the idea and representatives from the National Education Association and the California Teachers Association rolled through Chicago this week to take a look at his pilot project in the hopes of launching something similar on the West Coast.  Watch:

As you can see, Swinney's perspective is extremely easy to wrap your head around.  We've lost a lot of the unskilled labor opportunities to assembly lines elsewhere.  And we're not going to get those jobs back.  But if America invests in training students in advanced, skilled work -- with support from the private sector -- we can become a world leader in what he describes as "complicated products."

Swinney's no-nonsense approach also showed through when DuMont asked him about how the government should aid the Big Three automakers.  Watch:

In all the interviews and roundtables I've watched about the economic crisis and the failing auto companies, I don't think I've seen anyone lay out as sensible and matter-of-fact an approach as Swinney's.

We're planning on publishing a guest column from him in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

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