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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Why retraining usually doesn’t work

Retraining usually doesn’t work, writes Jeffrey Selingo is part of the Lumina-funded series, What makes a worker?, in The Atlantic. Federal programs for displaced workers are “ineffective according to numerous studies over the years.”

More men are training for health-care careers, but some feel it’s women’s work.

Colleges move slowly to create new programs — if they know what local employers want — and trainees may learn “skills that are outdated by the time they graduate,” he writes.

Retraining works best when workers start immediately after losing the old job and move quickly to the workforce.

“The pathway to retraining these days almost always runs through a college campus,” usually a community college, Selingo writes.

Even most manufacturing jobs now demand some sort of education after high school. But many of the workers who require retraining dropped out of college, if they went at all. Perhaps the biggest hurdle in retraining displaced workers is that some of them have little interest in going back to school. . . . The share of American men in their prime working years (25 to 54-years-old) but not employed has jumped sharply in the last four decades. Today, one in five of them isn’t in the labor pool at all. 

For laid-off workers without much education, “it’s often easier to collect unemployment or other cash benefits that come along with training and then either remain jobless or patch together work that doesn’t require learning a new skill or acquiring a college degree,” he writes.

To learn a new job, the first step is to show up, reports NPR’s Ben Bergman. After a big Los Angeles hotel closed, most laid-off workers didn’t take advantage of training. After a year, only 169 of 600 full-time workers had found new jobs.

Ruth Graham reported on the retraining paradox for the New York Times.

Lolade Fadulu reports on new tools for tracking the labor market so people are trained for jobs that actually exist.

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