Part 4: Jobs Training, more things change, they stay same

First a little background:  in the year 2011, United States Senator Coburn spearheaded an awareness of the complexity of the U.S. job training strategies as implemented by various then-current laws and mandate legislation. I wrote the following commentary in 2011:

The current fiasco over the U.S. debt ceiling, amount of debt owed to creditors and the amount of revenue available for the current and future government check book, has raised the responsibility of job (lack of) training effectiveness and appropriateness to the level of presentation and focus during the debt ceiling legislation discussions over the weekend of July 30, 2011. During a happenstance viewing of C-SPAN I caught Senator Coburn’s presentation to the Senate regarding the current (year 2011) state of Federal job training initiatives.  Senator Coburn made reference to his report entitled “Help Wanted: How Federal Job Training Programs are Failing Workers”   “Help Wanted: How Federal Job Training Programs are Failing Workers” and also a report written by the GAO entitled “January 2011 Multiple employment and training programs report.”

Senator Coburn’s criticism of current (i.e. year 2011) and previous jobs programs is their poor record of effectiveness, impact on job training, widespread lack of focus and, unfortunately, gross examples of fraud. The good news, it is felt that job training programs are a good idea, it’s the execution, administration, duplication, policing, and application of Federal funds that are being criticized. These management skills are not easy to execute in a small company let alone by the Federal Government from, perhaps, one thousand miles away from the program’s recipient. In fact, an example in Senator Coburn’s report features a job training program (“16. Bureaucracy Curtails Employment Options for DC Youth, Causes Job Lay-Offs”) right in WashingtonD.C.

A common theme of the focus of job training is its target of a specific population such as “low income” or minority populations. Training any “population” for jobs that aren’t “there” (which incidentally was the criticism of some of the programs outlined in Senator Coburn report) is a waste of time, money, human capital and undermines any future incentive for offering job training. Employment opportunity is a local thing. Training people for jobs you hope will “appear” and not the jobs that local employers are offering and anticipating in the near future, defeats the purpose of job training. Warren Buffett stated in a year 2011 interview with Bloomberg News that “You hire when you have demand. You respond to demand.” Ergo, job training should respond to demand. There should be an “understanding” of time needed to fulfill the training process, it’s called the “learning curve.”

One solution to trimming the expense of job training programs is to “co-locate” in facilities with other like-minded programs. In the highlights of the GAO report it states “An obstacle to further progress in achieving greater administrative efficiencies is that little information is available about the strategies and results of such initiatives. In addition, little is known about the incentives which states and localities have to undertake and whether additional incentives may be needed. What is concerning is the idea that states and localities need “incentives” to offer job training programs or reasons to cut physical plant costs that make sense. One could refer to “keeping a finger on the pulse” of a local economy and the myriad of businesses that reside there. It has been mentioned by others that the community college system and even high school vocational programs have worked in the past with local businesses to train future employees.

It’s at least a two-prong approach that’s needed: 1. education to teach people to read and write (if they can’t write, they can’t READ writing either); 2. job training that is obviously focused on skills that business needs an employee to have in order to be productive. OK, let’s make this a 3-prong fork, business needs to offer job training also, and this could be considered enhancing the human capital of the company. As long as the education and training of people is considered an “expense” and not an “investment,” things are not going to change in the United States. So getting back to Senator Coburn, cutting programs and chopping off money is not the answer, changing focus, mindset, and direction is.

Here’s a year 2012 fact check regarding Mitt Romney’s reference to a plethora of government funded job training programs:

In conclusion, this is the year 2015, soon to be year 2016, a Presidential election year in the United States. The ‘jobs” issue is becoming more and more complicated because of a new trade  agreement signed by President Obama called the Trans Pacific Partnership:

In the next part of this Jobs series, I bring it quite local featuring the City of Chicago and its “job readiness” strategies or “lack of”.

Here’s the links to earlier postings in this series:

Part 1: Jobs, jobs, jobs and the Mono-economy of the New Millennium

Part 2: Past prescriptions to the employment problem

Part 3: Jobs, jobs, jobs and the Job Training Dilemma

Part 5A: Jobs and the Re-tooling of an Industrial Titan: Chicago

Part 5B: Jobs Training and the search for long-term solutions

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