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Columns

October 21, 2013

Local education, employment trends shifted in early 1960s

Borrowing a phrase from the 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy, there was a “New Frontier” approaching for employment trends and the education of the future workforce in the Oneonta region in the early 1960s.

Several newspaper articles highlighted these two topics during October and the autumn of 1963.

“Prepare ‘Average’ Pupils for New World, Educators Told,” was a headline in The Oneonta Star of Saturday, Oct. 19, 1963 for an article about the local employment scene taking on a new “personality.”

“Education has taken over as one of Oneonta’s three most important sources of employment, ranking now with industry and the retail trades as a top employer in Oneonta.”

“In comparison, railroading, once Oneonta’s principal employer has slipped far down the scale and is now being challenged numerically as an employer by the emerging electrical industry.”

These and many other facts were pointed out to the 196 faculty members of the Oneonta City School District at “Business Education Day” on Friday, Oct. 18, a luncheon put on by the Greater Oneonta Chamber of Commerce and held at the Oneonta Elks Club.

A speaker from the New York State Dept. of Education, James W. Moore, used 1960 census figures to point out vast changes in local employment sectors from the levels in 1950. Overall, 895 fewer people were employed in Oneonta in 1960 than in 1950, an 11 percent decline. Most of the decline came from the D&H Railroad, where in 1950 there were 936 employed, falling to 353 by 1960.

Educational services, while at 275 employees in 1950, had jumped to 643 by 1960. Expansions at what was then called the Oneonta State University Teachers’ College, as well as at Hartwick College, figured into the increase.

Moore stressed to the faculty that they should concern themselves with the “average” student above all because that is the individual who would face the most trying times in the employment world in decades to come.

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