Worker Training in Demand, but in Short Supply
December 11, 2009 - 1:17am ET
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The U.S. must train workers for the job growth of tomorrow. According to employment projection data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics yesterday, middle-skill jobs will experience the highest growth over the next decade. These jobs pay well, but also require a post-secondary certificate or an associate’s degree. To help workers gain the credentials they need to fill such positions, the U.S. needs to build a strong national skills strategy to address this demand.
Middle-skill jobs are set to grow, including registered nursing that will add over one million positions, construction trades estimated to expand by almost 1.8 million and production occupations that will need over 2.1 million additional workers. These new jobs require education and training best supported by a strong federal training program supported by community colleges, employers, community based organizations and labor unions.
However, U.S. funding for workforce development has slackened off significantly over the past few decades, despite demand continuing to rise for such services. Just twenty years ago, public investment in worker training was nearly three times higher than it is today. Note: data based upon OECD calculation’s of training as a percent of total GDP.
This significant lack of investment means workers are unable to find the skills they need to find a job or advance their career, while businesses are left struggling to find qualified workers to fill the jobs needed to succeed. This ultimately harms American competitiveness globally, particularly as we try to rebuild and modernize our economy (think: green energy and high-tech manufacturing growth). Take a look at the graphic below, as a percent of GDP, U.S. public investment in training is far behind most other OECD countries.
Where to Go From Here
The Obama administration understands the importance of worker training. Under the Recovery Act or “stimulus” nearly $4 billion was given to job training programs, however this was only a down payment and short-term. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) that has yet to pass the Senate, builds on the stimulus, with provisions that encourage community college-industry partnerships. This legislation is a great start and should be supported, but worker training needs are still much deeper. For the U.S. to build a sustained, accessible worker training system that both matches the needs of workers and businesses, while also allowing for public-industry partnerships, much more federal investment is required.
The Institute for America’s Future, in partnership with the Workforce Alliance will release a report on workforce development next week titled “The Bridge to a New Economy: Worker Training Fills the Gap” that outlines further the demand, challenge and solution to implementing a national skills strategy. Stay tuned.
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