The New American Dream: Workforce Training Programs

By Zane Heflin — May 30, 2019

By many measures, the U.S. economy is thriving. And yet, far too many American workers in far too many places are being left out and left behind due to underinvestment and poor performance from many workforce training programs that are funded.


Our Solutions In Brief

1. Emphasize the Job, Not the Training

A prerequisite for workforce training ought to include identification of a job opening where the skill shortages are located. Similarly, more federal funding needs to be targeted toward organizations and programs with proven records of success in placing people in good paying jobs.

2. Cut through the Licensing Thicket

State and local licensing requirements are responsible for Americans having 2.85 million fewer jobs as people are discouraged from pursuing new careers. State agencies should make use of cost-benefit analysis to determine whether certain occupational licensing requirements are warranted, and if not move to reclassify occupations to a system of certification or no regulation.

3. Fix Job Corps

The U.S. Department of Labor found that Job Corps "could not demonstrate the extent to which its training programs helped participants enter meaningful jobs appropriate to their training" after conducting an audit of the program. Congress needs to fix this program or shutter it altogether because it simply is not working.

4. Promote Awareness of Workforce Training Resources

Among those with less than a high school diploma, 80% were unfamiliar with the education and training opportunities in their community.20 Promoting greater awareness of workforce training resources through increased advertising or marketing could help to close this gap.

5. Improve Reporting on Outcomes

In order to create successful workforce training programs, it is essential that the government has adequate data on the outcomes of workers in areas such as long-term employment and wage growth. Linking state tax records with job training enrollment records would provide an easy and accurate way to report on the actual effectiveness of workforce training programs.

6. Provide Flexibility for State Funding

State governments should have the authority to provide funding to programs run by local organizations that have a proven track record of success rather than adopting a one size fits all approach that fails to meet the needs of their citizens.

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Numbers At-A-Glance

  • 30% of U.S. factory jobs

    lost between 1990 and 2015

  • 1.4 Million jobs

    have been lost in rural communities since the Great Recession

  • 7.5 million job openings

    unfilled as of March 2019

  • 40% decrease in funding

    for state grants under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) in the last 15 years

  • 30% of American workers

    need a license to perform their jobs. In the early 1950s, less than 5% did.

  • 87% of workers

    believe that it will be essential for them to get training and develop new job skills in order to keep up with changes in the workplace

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