Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Don't Believe the Hype -- Job Retraining Edition...

For years, the 108Warren Commission has been skeptical of "Job Retraining" programs.

The programs are funded by state and federal tax dollars and are designed to help educate folks who have spent the bulk of their career in jobs that are no longer economically viable so that they can move on to a new career. On its face, this sounds like a great idea, and one that most taxpayers would be reasonably comfortable paying for.

Skeptics on the other hand, have pointed out that the employees most commonly displaced are those with the least education, and those least likely to be successful in developing new skills. While some have college degrees, most have not seen the inside of a classroom since they graduated from High School 20 years earlier. Even discounting the likelihood of potential age discrimination, the challenges facing "retrained" members of the workforce are not easy to overcome.

Now, in a bit of a surprise, the New York Times is pointing out the pitfalls of "Job Retraining." In an article on July 6th, Job Retraining May Fall Short of High Hopes, Times reporter Michael Luo points out the challenges faced by a group of Michigan residents who are going through, or have already completed "Job Retraining."

As an added bonus, Mr. Luo's article also pointed out a "little-noticed" study by the department of Labor that highlighted the same issues. For a link to this study, please CLICK HERE. Be warned, the factual conclusions are not highlighted in the Executive Summary -- in fact, the Summary appears to be cherry picking positive statements somewhat out of context.

As a concept, helping employees in displaced industries develop new skills so that they have improved odds in the job market is a good thing, but it is not a panacea. The reality is that the best thing we can do for employees in industries that are being displaced is to begin to train them for new opportunities while they are still working, and for that, the workers have to take the lead themselves.

As in most things, employees taking personal responsibility for their careers will be able to set themselves up with more options than those who don't.

Hat Tip to Marginal Revolution for the link.