WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Job Training: A Record of Failure – Via Meadia
Job Training: A Record of Failure
Walter Russell Mead’s Blog – Via Meadia
September 13, 2011
One of the most talked-about items in Obama’s new jobs proposal is also one of the most questionable: job training programs for minors and the unemployed. On the surface, this seems like a smart idea — providing American workers with the skills needed to navigate an economy that has changed dramatically over the past twenty years is certainly a noble goal. Yet the government has been involved with similar programs since the 1960s, and their track record has been abysmal. From the WSJ:
Between 1961 and 1980, the feds spent tens of billions on federal job-training and employment programs. To what effect? A 1979 Washington Post investigation concluded, “Incredibly, the government has kept no meaningful statistics on the effectiveness of these programs—making the past 15 years’ effort almost worthless in terms of learning what works.” CETA hirees were often assigned to do whatever benefited the government agency or nonprofit that put them on the payroll, with no concern for the trainees’ development. An Urban Institute study of the mid-1980s concluded that participation in CETA programs resulted in “significant earnings losses for young men of all races and no significant effects for young women.”
After CETA became a laughingstock, Congress replaced it in 1982 with the Job Training Partnership Act. JTPA spent lavishly—to expand an Indiana circus museum, teach Washington taxi drivers to smile, provide foreign junkets for state and local politicians, and bankroll business relocations. According to the Labor Department’s inspector general, young trainees were twice as likely to rely on food stamps after JTPA involvement than before since the “training” often included instructions on applying for an array of government benefits.
For years the Labor Department scorned the mandate in the 1982 legislation to speedily and thoroughly evaluate whether the programs actually benefitted trainees. Finally, in 1993, it released a study that showed participation in JTPA “actually reduced the earnings of male out-of-school youths.” Young males enrolled in JTPA programs had 10% lower earnings than a control group that never participated.