Invest in Human Capital (Editorial)

This week’s issue is dedicated to the topic of Arkansas’ workforce. It’s a big topic and we’ve only scratched at it, but there’s enough to be able to make this statement: While the unemployment rate remains higher than anyone would like, there are good jobs going unfilled.

The lack of human capital is as detrimental to a business that wants to grow as the lack of financial capital. Employees sometimes think it’s just cheerleader talk, but business executives know that people — the right people — really are the key to business success.

Meanwhile, at the Arkansas General Assembly, yet another attempt to continue the education of the children of illegal immigrants died in committee. Youngsters who were brought to our state through no fault of their own and who have been ours to educate K-12 were once again told that our colleges and universities can’t consider them to be Arkansans.

It reminded us of a comment by former state Rep. Bob McGinnis of Marianna to an audience in northwest Arkansas more than 10 years ago:

“Educate your minorities. Don’t make the same mistake we did in east Arkansas. We didn’t, and now we can’t attract any industry because we don’t have an educated workforce.”

His words were uncomfortably paternalistic and not altogether true; the Delta is attracting industry, in part because of renewed efforts at education over the past decade. But it is still good advice that we wish the Legislature would heed. Punishing students for the misdeeds of their parents is a textbook example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Immigration reform is coming from Washington, as the Republican Party can read exit polls and demographic trends. And when it arrives, Arkansas will have already missed several chances to get ahead of the trend. Some things, unfortunately, never change.