Who Should Be Paying for Job Training?

Who Should Be Paying for Job TrainingThe economy might be showing the faintest glimmers of recovery, but with unemployment still at 8.5 percent and many long-term unemployed struggling to find their way back into the labor force, investing more in training seems like a no-brainer. But who should pay to get workers the skills they need to qualify for open positions? The New York Times asked that very question this week.

In a long piece that’s sure to spur discussion in both public policy and training circles, Motoko Rich of the Times calls attention to the fact that while private companies benefit from retraining programs, the public foots the bill:

"Some of Caterpillar’s newest factory workers are training inside a former carpet warehouse here in the heart of tobacco country. In classrooms, they click through online tutorials and study blueprints emblazoned with the company’s logo. And on a mock factory floor, they learn to use wrenches, hoses and power tools that they will need to build axles for large mining trucks.

"The primary beneficiary is undoubtedly Caterpillar, a maker of industrial equipment with rising profits that has a new plant about 10 miles away in Winston-Salem. Yet North Carolina is picking up much of the cost ... Caterpillar is one of dozens of companies, many with growing profits and large cash reserves, that have come to expect such largess from states in return for creating jobs.

"Although the sums spent on training are usually small compared with the tax breaks and other credits doled out by states, some critics question the tactic."

According to Rich, several non-profit groups have issued reports claiming that the jobs created by programs such as the one at Caterpillar are, in short, few and lousy, with low pay and a lack of benefits. Public officials say the programs provide some of the greatest bang for the job-creation buck available.

So who’s right and what does this mean for training professionals outside of heavy industry and other sectors benefiting from government largesse? Mindflash’s own CEO Donna Wells recently raised the question of whether industry was living up to its obligation to assist with preparing workers for available jobs in Fast Company.

“Amidst one of the greatest job crises in recent history, employers are turning away job seekers willing and able to work because they don’t have the exact skills to match their openings. And waiting for those perfect candidates is holding employers back,” she writes, urging them instead to help themselves. New technologies, she suggests, might lower the costs of training, making providing it less daunting to employers.

Do you agree that employers should rely less on government programs and the schools to prepare workers and shoulder more of the burden of training themselves?

Image used under Creative Commons by stock.xchng user star-one.

London-based Jessica Stillman blogs about generational issues and trends in the workforce for Inc.com, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist.

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