As 2013 blasts off post Mayan apocalypse, the last of our comfortable structures buckle under a new world of feuding technologies, turbulent markets and unremitting political strife.
Civil war rages in the Middle East. China's communist leaders prepare for a new era of oppression, rejecting Western democracy the same time they benefit from it. Monstrous storms rip apart our cities, while perpetual showdowns in Washington reinforce what has become a pathological state of dysfunction.
The world has never faced greater challenges, and it's easy to feel that we'll be sucked up by the squalling noise rather than working our way through it.
In Gardnerville, the landscape is changing. Many people fear Walmart will destroy our pretty little town. Others believe that hundreds of new jobs can only be a good thing. We learned last week that the store would be getting a gas station out front, complementing the near-finished Maverik at the Minden Gateway Center.
It would be a mistake, however, to assume our future will be dominated by retail employment. While continued unemployment is certainly a problem, we have world-class companies in this valley willing to pay good wages for skilled workers.
Off the top of my head the list goes: GE Energy, Bently Enterprises, Starbucks, North Sails, American AVK, Aervoe Industries and Metalast. We have smaller outfits that produce highly specialized parts and products, like Aviso Surfboards, American International Tooling, AIM Kilns, and TechSpec. Recent arrivals include Life Enhancement Products and AnC Precision.
Every time I head out to one of our business parks, I'm impressed by what I find: cutting-edge manufacturers that have decided to base operations here for whatever reason. The impression never fails. These companies are in it for the long haul, fighting for every sale, every market, and making their stand right here in beautiful Carson Valley.
For those individuals willing to regear and apply themselves, this means opportunity.
Economic development is not possible without education. The recession wiped out entire professions based on outdated skill sets. What worked for our grandparents, pencil, carbon paper, and a handshake, no longer cuts it. The new world moves at a merciless clip, leaving the unprepared frozen in obsolescence.
The first step may be as simple as finishing high school.
"GED is a gatekeeper," said Douglas High counselor and GED chief examiner Michael Caughlan. "We're seeing more and more older adults come in and take the GED because their employers say they need it, even if they have 30 years of experience. The criteria to advance has really tightened up."
The school district is offering free GED and Nevada High School Proficiency Exam preparation classes 5-8 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday in room 302 behind the DHS media center.
"This will be the last year of the 2002 series test that all of our adults have been able to pass," reads an advertisement for the class. "However, next year, on Jan. 1, 2014, there will be a new GED test series that will be extremely hard to pass, will require the test-taker to be computer literate as the test will be taken on the computer (subject to the same time constraints so typing speed will be important), and the ability for us to waive test fees due to financial difficulties and/or unemployment will no longer exist. If you have been holding off on getting your GED, it will be very important you complete this sometime this year."
The district is also offering a basic computer class 3:30-5 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, beginning today, at a cost of $100. Some participants may qualify for financial assistance. An advanced computer literacy class meets on the same days 4-6:30 p.m.
Other DCSD adult courses include graphic design/screen printing, social studies and English.
"Without a GED, you're not going to be able to get that door opened up for post-secondary education," Caughlan said. "Basically, employers expect people to have some skill set coming in."
For more information, or to register, call Caughlan at 782-5136, ext. 1716, or visit www.dhsged.weebly.com.
Where a high school graduate steps off into the world is where higher education, specifically Western Nevada College, builds another step.
"We all need to evolve as the world evolves," said David Steiger, WNC's director of economic development and continuing education.
Steiger oversees the college's Manufacturing Collaborative program, a joint initiative between the Northern Nevada Manufacturers Forum and WNC.
"The Collaborative's mission is to provide an educational pathway that allows individuals to develop skills that meet the needs of the manufacturing/industrial community in Carson City, Douglas, and Lyon counties," reads the program description. "The program offers recognition to those who attain certification, giving manufacturers an advantage in assessing a current employee or a certified applicant and giving the certificate holder an advantage in consideration for promotion or hire."
Students in the program must earn a C or better in five three-credit courses: business speech communication, human relations for employment, shop mathematics, drafting/blueprint reading, and writing.
Two officers of Minden manufacturing firms serve on the program's advisory committee: Al Jurkonis, president, American AVK; and Ray English, vice president of engineering, American International Tooling.
WNC offers other workforce certification programs in fields as diverse as automotive service, information technology, home inspection and welding.
For more information, visit www.wnc.edu.
Heading into this brave new world, I leave you with Steiger's dictum: "Evolve as the world evolves."