Today, following a meeting of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB), President Obama is to announce a new jobs program aimed at training
Today, following a meeting of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB), President Obama is to announce a new jobs program aimed at training workers into growing industries. Skills for America’s Future will help to match community college curricula with the needs of hiring local companies. The New York Times reports:
“The goal is to encourage community colleges and other training providers to work in close partnership with employers, to design a curriculum where they want to hire the people coming out of these programs right away,” said Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.
Some similar employer-community college partnerships already exist around the country, generally in one-off programs. The new White House initiative, Skills for America’s Future, will try to foster more of these programs, and to certify a list of best practices for public-private retraining partnerships.
The program will be run by the Aspen Institute, a not-for-profit, private research organization based in Washington, but will be accompanied by a new government task force with representatives from the Department of Labor, the Department of Commerce and other agencies. So far five major private employers — Gap Inc., Accenture, United Technologies, P.G.& E. and McDonald’s — have been named as partners, in part to build on existing training programs they already run.
In the story, Penny Pritzker, a Chicago business executive and member of PERAB, says the new program should help solve the country’s structural unemployment. “There’s a number of studies and a number of discussions about the skills gap and how that’s related to unemployment,” she says. “We’re trying to bring together the government, the private sector, labor and community colleges and students to really address what is one of the structural problems facing this country right now.”
And there’s the rub. Most economists — and most businesspeople — agree that the bulk of the country’s unemployment is cyclical, not structural. It is due to an economy-wide lack of demand, rather than a mismatch between workers’ skills and employers’ needs.
Granted, the United States’ job retraining programs tend not to work terribly well, and at great cost, so they could certainly use some upgrading. And this sort of program will be useful in a few years, when more of the unemployment *will *be structural (due to changes in the economy, and the fact that so much of the workforce will have sat idle for so long). But it won’t be a quick fix to the joblessness crisis.
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