Will Job Training Help You Get a Job?
Job training is a big part of President Obama’s economic recovery plan. In 2009, the President announced a new program designed to encourage online schools to increase financial aid to the unemployed—and provide incentives for unemployed people to get job training instead of taking low-wage jobs for which they’re overqualified. He’s called on community colleges to serve a leading role in providing job training to the unemployed, calling for over $12 billion in funding to help 5 million more people get into job training programs.
But is job training really helpful to the unemployed? A Labor Department study conducted in 2003-2004 suggested that the benefits to the unemployed provided by the biggest federal job training program at the time were “small to nonexistent”—people found themselves only very minimally more likely to get jobs than they were after the training. Here’s a look at why that might be the case—and what needs to happen to get job training programs in line with what employers actually need.
The skills being taught aren’t in high demand
One New York Times article profiles a student taking classes in word processing and Excel—not exactly rare skills for industries that are growing. While not every job training program is created equally—President Obama’s directive mainly relies on community colleges to create the programs that the government funds, rather than setting a formula for all job training programs—it could be that many job training programs aren’t producing what the workplace needs.
In the same New York Times article, the unemployed person profiled was told he’d be put in contact with job opportunities after completing job training. After going through what seemed to be fairly outdated classes in very basic computer skills, he found that only very low-wage jobs were on offer—and they were swamped by applicants. It could be that job training programs need to forge better connections in industries that pay well and need the skills that the programs are teaching.
Government-funded programs teach what’s trendy, not what’s needed
In Inside Higher Ed, the American Welding Society laments the incentives for “green jobs” education from congress—because those financial incentives take away funding from proven, but less trendy, vocational programs such as those for welders.
Job training doesn’t create jobs
So far, over 6 million people have lost their jobs in this recession. And despite the government’s best efforts, hiring just hasn’t picked up yet to the extent that everyone can find a new job that pays as well as their old job—in their preferred career track. No matter how well-trained workers are, if there aren’t enough jobs for everyone, some people will still stay unemployed. Some of the problem is likely to be the economy itself and not the training programs.
Many job training programs stop short of useful credentials
Adding a new credential or degree to your resume is one way to increase your qualifications for a job. But some job training programs stop short of providing useful credentials that quantify training easily for employers to see—and many workers can’t afford to pay tuition or stay in school long enough to earn a degree, even if they do have access to federal aid.
The Obama Administration has expressed a strong interest in funding job training programs in fast-growing sectors such as health care. But if most of the funding continues to go to job training programs that have little bearing on the type of skills employers need, job training isn’t likely to help the country’s unemployment problems. Useful job training programs should provide concrete credentials that employers value, connections to industries and companies that are looking for the specific skills taught in the job training program, and classes targeted toward growing industries.
Organizing for America: President Obama on Expanding Job Training Opportunities for Unemployed
New York Times: After Training, Still Struggling For Employment
The Takeaway: How Much Does Job Training Help With Unemployment?
STLToday: Jobless Lament Training For Work That Doesn’t Exist
Huffington Post: The Road to Tomorrow’s Jobs Isn’t Yesterday’s Training
Business Insider: The Scary Thing About Being Long-Term Unemployed: Job Training Doesn’t Work
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