The Real Value of Job Training

In July 6th’s issue of the New York Times, Eduardo Porter presents sound arguments for increasing investment in America’s job training programs. His article — “Job Training Works. So Why Not Do More?” — moves between a wide view of the United States economy, over into the historical pros and cons of job training, and down to the personal story of one Brooklyn woman, a beneficiary of a job training program run by Per Scholas.

To digest Porter’s work, he argues that job training is a far more effective investment than money spent on much lighter-touch job placement alternatives. While job placement assistance may be cheaper to offer, it doesn’t provide beneficiaries with skills that lead to economic security. The problems of poverty get disguised, but participants may find themselves in the same situation a year later.

Job training — particularly when the training offered is geared to match in-demand workplace skills — is a different story. Yes, it costs more. Those costs, however, can translate to participants’ increased earning potential and long-term stability. Job training may also keep struggling people out of the criminal justice system, an outcome which saves the country far more than it would otherwise spend.

Not only do job training programs help the unemployed find work, those aligned with high-growth sectors are best equipped to lift people and families out of poverty; they help connect people to living wage jobs and stable career paths. That’s access and opportunity. That’s economic security.

The Walter & Elise Haas Fund supports job training through the work of grantees such as the Center for Employment Opportunities (different from the CEO mentioned in the NYT article), Stride Center, Jewish Vocational Services, Upwardly Global and Cypress Mandela Training Center, and more.

Read Eduardo Porter’s piece. We hope you’ll quickly see the real value of job training programs and join us in supporting them, however you can.


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  1. Larry Robbin

    More job training alone is not the answer. There are too many training programs turning out graduates with out of date skill sets that do not match the current needs of employers. This can be true of both nonprofit and for profit training providers. These programs often do not keep up with changes in technology, procedures and the current soft skills requirements of employers. You can train in a demand occupation area, but it does mean your training is the state-of-the-art. Look at the poor outcomes of many training programs in helping people get training related jobs. Check out this report from the General Accounting Office – Also employers are reluctant to hire people that only have training experience and no experience in the job. Many of these programs count a success if the person gets employed, but they do not take note of the fact that they may be employed in something not related at all to their training. They also may count a training or non-training related hire as a success without measuring retention or wage gains that came from the training. We do not need more training programs like these.

    The answer lies in training programs that have employers deeply engaged in the design and execution of the training ​to make sure it aligns with their current needs. These programs also need learn and earn features like paid internships, on the job training and apprenticeships. These give trainees the real world of work experience they need to prove to themselves and employers that they can do the work. Training programs also need to take credit only for training related outcomes that have a strong retention outcome and that lead to significant wage gains.

    In addition, we need to make sure that training programs are not replicating the gender, race/ethnicity and other biases in the hiring patterns of employers. The construction training program that does not have a strong well thought out strategy to recruit, retain and train women will inadvertently be contributing to the old boys culture of construction where less than 3% of the jobs are held by women. The computer training program that does not figure out how to work with people with disabilities will also replicate the discrimination in that industry. Yes we do need more training programs, but more importantly we need a different kind of training program.
    Larry Robbin

    • Elena Chávez Quezada

      Thank you, Larry. Your insights are so appreciated, and I couldn’t agree more that the quality of these job training programs is paramount. Strong engagement with employers, incorporating “learn and earn” features, and ensuring that the programs are inclusive (and not replicating any biases that often exclude certain populations from the workforce) are all critical elements of a high-quality program. I should also note that in addition to these elements, we are interested in programs that prepare people to advance in career pathways toward “middle skill” employment.

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