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A Florida Reader Recalls Job "Shortages" in Post World War II England
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February 18, 2006, 04:00 AM
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A Hispanic Reader (U.S. Army, Retired) Offers Solution To Illegal Alien Problem

From: [Name Withheld]

Re: Joe Guzzardi`s Columns: "Temporary Workers"—First Computer Programmers; Next, American Teachers?" and "Our Schools to Import Filipino Teachers?"

Hmm, Guzzardi`s article, together with Peter Brimelow`s footnote to it, tapped a memory.

Dr. Edward R. Braithwaite, author of the autobiographical "To Sir, with Love," came to Florida State University as a "writer in residence" and gave a public address followed by a reception.

Braithwaite graduated with an engineering degree but was unable to find work until he heard about a teaching opportunity in England. He was shocked both by the miserable conditions and by the ignorance and attitudes of the slum students and administrators.

Well, you know the rest of the Hollywood-polished story. But what triggered my memory was that he was a bright engineer who could not get work.

At the time it was largely because of racial discrimination. But, asBrimelow notes, it was also during that post-World War II time when intelligent people—especially doctors—were fleeing British socialism for better prospects. Also during that time the term "brain drain" was coined, and the first but not the last time I heard  " engineer shortage" propaganda.

Here`s how it happened.

Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US quickly geared up to supply equipment and such to England.

Tens of thousands of farmers and housewives were trained to be quality inspectors, precision machinists, etc in crash courses lasting only a month or two.

Each plant required a mere handful of experienced engineers. The first of what became the interstates were built and railroad spurs extended to reach these new plants.

The day the Japanese surrendered, nearly all of them turned off the machine tools, stowed them and left the plants to search for other work.

And within months, with hundreds of thousands of unemployed (both war-plant workers and returning soldiers and support personnel), the government was issuing warnings of impending shortages of engineers and machinists.

Of course no such shortage ever arrived; the workers could all have been found just over the horizon.

I can hear their thoughts: "Beat the drums of panic loudly, especially if it will fill my own personal pockets."