It’s A Bust

For the past three decades, we’ve been fed this line about retraining for “the jobs of the future.” It started under Reagan, who did an amazing job shifting the expectation (and the costs) that your employer would train you for the job, to putting the onus on local school districts to prepare job-ready graduates, and on job seekers to make themselves “employable.”

So with that campaign, Reagan successfully planted the seeds we see blossoming today into full-blown insanity: If you’re not employed, it’s your own damned fault!

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have enrolled in federally financed training programs in recent years, only to remain out of work. That has intensified skepticism about training as a cure for unemployment.

Even before the recession created the bleakest job market in more than a quarter-century, job training was already producing disappointing results. A study conducted for the Labor Department tracking the experience of 160,000 laid-off workers in 12 states from mid-2003 to mid-2005 — a time of economic expansion — found that those who went through training wound up earning little more than those who did not, even three and four years later. “Over all, it appears possible that ultimate gains from participation are small or nonexistent,” the study concluded.

In the last 18 months, the Obama administration has embraced more promising approaches to training focused on faster-growing areas like renewable energy and health care. But most money has been directed at the same sorts of programs that in past years have largely failed to steer laid-off workers toward new careers, say experts, and now the number of job openings is vastly outnumbered by people out of work.

“It’s such an ugly situation that job training can’t solve it,” said Ross Eisenbrey, a job training expert at the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research institution in Washington, and a former commissioner of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. “When you have five people unemployed for every vacancy, you can train all the people you want and unfortunately only one-fifth of the people will get hired. Training doesn’t create jobs.”

5 thoughts on “It’s A Bust

  1. Eight years ago when I tried to get WIA (Workforce Investment Act) money for IT training and certification, they only had enough money to give out grants for people seeking work in the only fields in the area still hiring: nursing school and truck driver school.

  2. And another way to make workers take the blame for being out of work. “If you only had sense enough to get training in a field you don’t want to work in and have no aptitude for, you would be working, not sucking the lifeblood out of this great country, parasite.”

  3. The problem with focusing on “fast-growing” industries for job training is that fast-growing industries are often dominated by young entrepreneurs and managers who prefer younger employees, employees who understand the “new paradigm.” Even after training, they assume that those older than themselves won’t be able to do the job.

  4. I don’t even want to talk about the retraining, the certifications, the degrees I’ve been through/have/had since the woods shut down twenty years ago. From that experience, I wrote of this a year or so (more) ago when the big push came on… when student debt became the new subprime… about how disappointed folks are going to be a year or two into/on the other side of it Got me in a bit of trouble, so to speak, with both the local media (such as it is) and the local college (such as it is). Seems the truth is a little hard to take.

    Just another one of those “I hate it when I’m right” moments, though it’s hard to feel vindicated when you’re living in a van down by the river… with a Masters degree and more Micro$oft certifications than I’d care to hang in the outhouse.

    Speakin’ for myself, in that tomorrow’s thirty billion dollar bone tossed to the rubes in “trade” for repeal of the expiration of a sixty hundred and fifty billion dollar pop-tart for the rich isn’t gonna’ do squat for you or me, I’d just as soon see the bill go down in flames.

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