OUR OPINION: Apple success should prompt sharpen focus on U.S. jobs

Apple stock crested the $500-a-share mark Monday, and the company’s success continues to capture imaginations from Washington to local book clubs, where readers of the late Steve Jobs biography explore what it takes to achieve greatness.

Jobs was mentioned both in the president’s State of the Union address last month and the Republican response. President Obama celebrated Jobs as an entrepreneur, saying, “we should support everyone who’s willing to work, and every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs. After all, innovation is what America has always been about.”

he went on to call for more assistance for small businesses and start-ups and renewed investment in basic research – the kind of direct, government-funded research that brought us the computer chip, the Internet and hydro-fracking technology for oil and natural-gas drilling.

what is troubling to those who care about America’s economic future is that for all of Apple’s success, it’s hardly a major U.S. jobs creator.

As the New York Times reported in a recent examination of the barriers to U.S. manufacturing, Apple employs 43,000 people in the United States and 20,000 overseas. More telling is the number of non-employees involved in making its products and where they make them. the Times reported that some 700,000 people are employed by contractors building iPads, iPhones and other Apple projects, mostly in China.

Winning manufacturing jobs away from China is a tough, complicated business. it isn’t just that Chinese workers are paid less than Americans; it’s that the infrastructure is more modern, the government support is more generous and the workers have better skills. at a meeting with high-tech execs, Obama asked Jobs what it would take to bring Apple’s manufacturing back to the U.S., and Jobs’ reported response was this: “those jobs aren’t coming back.”

Apple found, for instance, that it needed 8,700 engineers to oversee iPhone production. China had them ready to work, but it would have taken nine months to hire that many here.

Gov. Deval Patrick’s recent push for changes in the state’s community college system is designed in part to help create a pool of people who could fill that void.

But reviving American manufacturing will require more sweeping change. what it will take are big changes not only in education, but also in business regulation and tax policies – all of which deserve spirited debate in the months to come.

OUR OPINION: Apple success should prompt sharpen focus on U.S. jobs

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