Job Training Works. So Why Not Do More?

Eduardo Porter, The New York Times

.....It’s hard to muster enthusiasm these days for the prospects of workers on all but the topmost rungs of the labor market. Wages of high school dropouts are lower than they were at the turn of the century in real terms. The same goes for workers with a high school diploma, and also for workers who went to college but stopped short of a bachelor’s degree.....

.....But are there really no ideas, short of throwing a wrench into the gears of the global economy? Ms. Edwards illustrates a surprisingly simple one: training for skills that are in demand. For some reason, this is a strategy the United States has not pursued earnestly in quite a long time. That looks like a mistake.

MDRC, the New York-based policy analysis group, last week released the preliminary assessment of an experiment called WorkAdvance, commissioned by the New York City government and funded in part by a federal grant. WorkAdvance offered targeted sectoral training programs for low-income workers in New York City, as well as in Tulsa, Okla., and northeast Ohio.

From 2011 to 2013, about 1,300 unemployed or low-wage workers were enrolled in the programs. They included support services like job placement and post-employment counseling on how to move up the career ladder.

But the main twist was the training, targeted at the most promising sectors. Per Scholas and the other nonprofits that took part in the experiment had to link up with employers in their areas to figure out what kind of skills were in demand and might open the door to a career path of rising wages.

Their results were heartening. After two years, participants made 14 percent more on average than workers in a control group, who did not benefit from the new approach. That amounts to $1,945 a year.....

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