Tags: One | Reporter's | Opinion: | Job | Training | Cruel | Joke

One Reporter's Opinion: Job Training a Cruel Joke

Friday, 06 February 2004 12:00 AM

It is this reporter's opinion that Bush's call for job training is a cruel joke on our 10 million unemployed. Before he spoke out in his State of the Union address in which he called for more job training as the solution to unemployment, the president might have read Gordon Lafer's book, "The Job Training Charade." (Cornell University Press, 2002)

Prof. Lafer states that for more than 20 years every job crisis, such as inner city poverty jobs that have been lost due to NAFTA and loggers out of work because of the spotted owl, have been met with calls for retraining. The president has fallen in line. Job training, he says, is the answer.

Mr. President, the problem is IT DOESN'T WORK. And the government knows it doesn't work.

The most comprehensive evaluation of training programs conducted by the Department of Labor followed 20,000 people over four years, and the government concluded that job training made no difference whatsoever. The unemployed got the same kind of jobs whether or not they had been through a job-training program.

Prof. Lafer, having studied more than 40 years of training policy, has not seen a single program that, on average, enabled participants to earn their way out of poverty.

Mr. President, here is why such training doesn't work.

First of all, there are simply not enough decent-paying jobs, and training by itself does not create more jobs.

Second, outside of the professional job market, most jobs do not require much in the way of sophisticated training. Fully two-thirds of American jobs are in occupations that do not require a college degree. The obvious question is TRAINING FOR WHAT?

The president insists that much of our job growth will be found in highly skilled fields. Let's face it, the most rapidly growing occupations are jobs in fast-food preparation, customer service, retail and security. And more than two-thirds of these jobs can be learned in a few days of on-the-job training and almost half pay wages at or near the poverty line. Additionally, more technology jobs are being sent out of the country than are being created for Americans. At least a tenth of all high-tech jobs are being exported to places like India.

These facts are not secret; most of them come from the government. So, if the president knows there are not enough jobs, why trumpet training as the answer to unemployment? It's simply a way of shifting responsibility from the administration and the corporate structure. Suggesting, in fact, that workers have themselves to blame for their misfortune, Bush implies that if only these bumbleheads had the right skills, they would not be facing the reality of joblessness.

The hypocrisy is that Bush is spending too little, that he's promoting training when he knows it can't solve the problem. According to Prof. Lafer, there are a number of things the president could do. He could demand a raise in the minimum wage, helping millions to escape poverty. He could make it easier for workers to unionize. (Union workers make 25 percent to 30 percent more than non-union workers in the same occupations and industries.) He could discourage American companies from laying off American workers and moving jobs overseas.

Job training is a scapegoat – a cruel joke perpetrated on the unemployed, an attempt to make workers think that unemployment is their own fault. The president should study carefully Prof. Gordon Lafer's plan as outlined in his book, "The Job Training Charade." The good professor is not Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal; he is simply an American realist.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/sim-explorer/

http://www.uoregon.edu/~lerc/faculty/lafer.html

* * * * * *

The legendary George Putnam is 89 years young and a veteran of 69 years as a reporter, broadcaster and commentator ... and is still going strong.

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It is this reporter's opinion that Bush's call for job training is a cruel joke on our 10 million unemployed.Before he spoke out in his State of the Union address in which he called for more job training as the solution to unemployment, the president might have read Gordon...
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Friday, 06 February 2004 12:00 AM
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