Are Government Retraining Programs Adding to the Skills Gap?

October 3, 2019
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Author: Tyran Saffold Jr

The Employment and Training Administration, run by the Department of Labor, funds 47 job training programs throughout the U.S. These trainings aim to improve the employment prospects of adults, youth and dislocated workers. Many unemployed and under-skilled people depend on these government programs to help find jobs, yet recent findings from the White House Council of Economic Advisers show that the programs are not producing as expected.

Government Reskilling Programs are Training for Outdated Careers

President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009. That stimulus package allowed the government to allocate $1.4 billion for job retraining. Some argue that the programs have failed to skill people adequately. In an ever-tightening job market, there is a misalignment of skillset to job openings.

Workforce Solution for Tarrant County

Tarrant County encompasses the area around Fort Worth, Texas. In an examination of the area, only 22 percent of reskilling programs were found to offer training in careers with projected growth. That means 78 percent of the programs are training members of the workforce to find employment in receding professions. The upside is that all the trainings can be completed in days to weeks.

Below is a list of the training options provided by the Workforce Solution for Tarrant County. The projected career growth for all but two options are expecting lagging growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • Forklift Operator: 4.0 percent growth (average)
  • Welder: 3.0 percent growth (slower than average)
  • CNC Operator: 1.0 percent growth (little or no growth)
  • Truck Driver: 2.0 percent growth (slower than average)
  • Office Clerk (Administration): -4.0 percent (decline)
  • Nursing Assistant: 9.0 percent growth (faster than average)
  • IT Support: 10.0 percent growth (faster than average)
  • Aircraft Assembler: 3.0 percent growth (slower than average)
  • Customer Service Representative: -2.0 percent (decline)

Eleven percent of the careers available in Tarrant County reskilling programs are projected to be replaced by automation.

So, are U.S. tax-dollars funding training in the wrong professions?

Although the Workforce Solution for Tarrant County is not an exact representation of the 46 other government retraining programs, there is a consensus. Government job training programs "appear to be largely ineffective and fail to produce sufficient benefits for workers to justify the costs," said Thomas Philipson. He is currently a member of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Displaced workers will still be at a disadvantage upon completion. Although the programs in Tarrant County are quick to complete, workers are being trained for roles that are disappearing. Trainings should coincide with the needs of today’s workforce and align with in demand skills. Those who are retrained with outdated skillsets are missiles fired into empty space. With correct training, the missile will be aimed directly at the correct target — the skills gap.