Saturday, June 4, 2016

Shortage of Skills or Abundance of Excuses?

As most Wisconsinites know, Scott Walker has overseen anemic economic performance for Wisconsin. Job growth has continually lagged the national average.

Once again, Wisconsin job growth trails national pace

Of course, none of this, according to Scott Walker, is Scott Walker's fault. (Regardless that he was elected based on his claims that he could grow 250,000 jobs for the state.) It's the dreaded skilled worker shortage. The jobs are here just waiting for the right workers. 

The laughable link between the two - jobs and the right skills for those jobs - is job training. Another overblown talking-point of economic development hucksters. 

As Marc Levine informed,
As Gordon Lafer, one of the country's foremost researchers on job training, puts it: "Whatever the problem, it seems job training is the answer. The only trouble is, it doesn't work, and the government knows it. . . . Indeed, in studying more than 40 years of job training policy, I have not seen one program that, on average, enabled its participants to earn their way out of poverty."
This, directly debunking the recent drivel being peddled in a Journal Sentinel opinion piece.

Levine continued,
Work force development policy is based on the fallacious premise that Milwaukee's core employment problem is a shortage of skilled workers (a "jobs-skills mismatch"). ...

The jobs are already here? Hardly. Indeed, taking metro Milwaukee as a whole, there is a gap of 88,000 between the number of jobless (working-age residents unemployed or out of the labor force) and the number of job vacancies reported by employers. It is a job shortage, much more than a skills shortage, that plagues the region. ... 
No matter who controls job training programs in Milwaukee, they are doomed to failure unless this economy produces enough family-supporting jobs.
This isn't to say we shouldn't be offering some job training efforts. This also doesn't mean that at some time during the business cycle, the economy won't experience some structural unemployment. But these supposed panaceas of skills-improvement and job-training have proven largely uneventful over the last few decades.

The continued call for increased skills also ignores the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the majority of new jobs over the next few decades will require only a high school education or minimal on-the-job training. Secondly, its also implies that we, as a nation are becoming less educated; this, also, is false.

This skill-shortage talking-point merely allows most of the decision-makers to take the hands-off approach of blaming the victim. "We've got some tools out there. If individuals don't take advantage, that's their problem."

More effective policies include increasing the earned income tax credit, unionization, increasing the minimum wage and increasing job programs (directly employing individuals).

As long as we keep pretending the market has all the answers and our workforce is so woefully inadequate that we can't do or learn the majority of vacant positions, charlatans and other hucksters will continue to sell job training, skills shortage and other bumper sticker policies that do little to address the issues they claim to be so concerned about.

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