Federal Worker Training – 49 Programs Limited Success

To our mind there are 2 main areas of workforce development, basic and custom.  By basic we mean the fundamental skills to succeed in any work setting, functional math, simple teamwork, proficient reading and writing.  This area would seem to us to be the purview of the educational system and for those not intending to, or capable of, heading on to post secondary education it would also include a vocational skill or trade.

Essentially this means everyone who graduates from high school would be prepared for entry level work.

Customized workforce development elevates the skills of these workers, and college educated workers, to meet the needs of their employers, enabling them to compete in the global marketplace.  In some cases the training is relatively generic and can be applied across businesses and sectors (strategic management for example) In other cases the training is very specific to a single company. Training on a particular milling machine or with a custom software program for example.

Government funded training programs too often fail  to meet the needs of individual companies because they lack flexibility and because they are expensive to administer.  In some cases as many as 4 different administrative fees can be charged to every training award meaning that as little as 30 cents of every training dollar actually get to the worker being training.

When Washington hears that there is a training need, their solution too often is to create a new program, rather than make an existing program more flexible, or easier to access. The Wall Street Journal editorializes about this today.

“Of the five programs studied, the positive effect “tended to be small, inconclusive, or restricted to short-term impacts.” A 2011 Department of Labor study found that the benefits of job training under one of the most extensive efforts, the 1998 Workforce Investment Act, “were small or nonexistent.” GAO reports in the 1990s, in 2000 and in 2003 had similar conclusions, finding that multiple programs duplicated efforts, ran up costs and produced few benefits. The reports did little to stem mission creep.”

Perhaps we are biased, but it seems to us that the best way to maximize return on training dollars invested is to keep the dollars as close as possible to the companies needing them.