Ineffective job training programs

Federal job training programs — with the exception of apprenticeships — appear to be largely ineffective, according to a new White House report.

An assessment of federal job training programs based on increases to wages and employment rates show little gain from these programs — 47 such programs across 15 different government agencies totaling nearly $19 billion in 2019, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).

The CEA report says few rigorous evaluations exist to properly gauge the success of government-funded training programs.

“Many public training programs have not undergone rigorous evaluation and therefore a framework needs to be established for evaluating trainee success, both by incorporating randomized control trials into program design and by improving data collection and long-term tracking of participant outcomes,” it says.

Apprenticeships look promising

Among programs that do have data and studies, they don’t appear to have much effect on securing high-paying jobs for participants, the report continues. It adds that services such as job searches and career guidance — which are often part of such programs — show some minimal gains, but the actual training part does not prepare workers with the skills they need for changing and emerging jobs.

“With the exception of the Registered Apprenticeship program, government job training programs appear to be largely ineffective and fail to produce sufficient benefits for workers to justify the costs,” the report says.

CEA cites a 2012 study of registered apprenticeships in 10 states that found program completers earned, on average, $240,037 more over their lifetime than nonparticipants. It adds that there were limitations to the study, but a randomized study would help to better assess apprenticeships. It also notes that “little is known about the effectiveness of other types of apprenticeships,” which, in part, refers to industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs).

The call-out regarding apprenticeships is not a surprise, as the Trump administration has been pushing to use apprenticeships more in job training efforts, particularly IRAPs.

Such criticism of federal job training programs also is not new. Federal lawmakers — both Republicans and Democrats — have occasionally noted the overlap among the number of training programs spread among various agencies. The Trump administration has previously recommended consolidating a number of these programs and even merging the departments of Education and Labor — a point noted by CEA.

Trump’s proposals

Aside from apprenticeships, the report highlights the president’s proposals and initiatives to address worker training, such as encouraging the private sector to help address the skills gap, and expanding alternatives to four-year colleges. Regarding the latter, CEA notes the administration’s proposal to expand Pell Grant eligibility to include shorter-term certificate training programs — an idea supported by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

The report also cites the administration’s effort to include more backing from business and industry to better prepare the nation’s workforce, noting the mission of the National Council for the American Worker (NCAW), which President Trump established last year. The council is charged with developing a national workforce strategy to close the skills gaps. CEA prepared its new report for the council.

AACC President Walter Bumphus is on the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, which serves NCAW. The association last month hosted a working group meeting of the advisory board.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.