Employers Don’t Train: How to Overcome This Giant Obstacle
Programs that feed workers to specific companies are a better bet
Caught somewhere in the yawning gap between current job abilities and work skills needed for the next gig?
Degrees and credentials often don’t help. “There’s a disconnect,” says Kristen Broady, a fellow in economics at the Brookings Institution. “Schools are thinking, ‘We’re training them on the basics because they’re going to get specific training when they get there.’ And companies expect employees to come in with knowledge.” You see the problem.
Broady recently wrote a report outlining the many current failures of U.S. job training — and potential solutions. In short, she thinks that finding training shouldn’t be your headache. “Workers are already trying to manage their lives, right? They’re looking for jobs, making sure they have internet, and trying to manage things like childcare and transportation,” she says.
Training is now your job
Ideally you would apply for a job with, say, five of the seven skills necessary, and the employer would shuttle you over to a training center for numbers six and seven. “I’m not for putting that responsibility on workers,” Broady says.
It’s currently put on workers. As Broady’s report explains, both employer-paid training and federally-funded training have long been on the wane; at the same time, declining union membership has weakened labor’s ability to push for on-the-job training, leaving companies to perceive you as a temporary asset that will one day walk out the door, and therefore not worth training. Thirty years of this has resulted in an underskilled workforce that no longer expects employers to foot the bill for training.
Beyond that, the problem is one of communication. Job recruiters rarely communicate with the educational faculty who make syllabi. Let’s look at what happens in the rare instances when they do communicate: A few years ago, numerous companies began complaining that they lacked executives who understood both business and technology. They had finance people and tech people, but not both. A handful of tech-MBA programs swiftly emerged to fill their need, pumping out new grads who soon collect salaries of around $400,000 per year. But the same catering mostly does not take place for lower-salary jobs.
Back to you. Given that the onus is 100% on you to connect yourself with training, Broady suggests that you hedge your bets by enrolling in a training or education program that is already hooked up to large employers. Typically, students do internships with the company, and eventually end up with full-time employment. “Then you don’t have to make the connection yourself. The connection has already been made,” Broady says.
Choosing a training program
Cathy Morgan, director of customer acquisition at [email protected] Work, is a fan of large-scale, nonprofit training programs including Per Scholas, Year Up, Merit America and SkillUp.
“Most of the bigger ones train for free — their learners are not paying a cost. I would typically stay mainstream, with some of the larger organizations,” Morgan says. This is not to say that the small job-credentialing program run out of your local church isn’t fantastic; it’s just harder to objectively vet, and is unlikely to have resources like childcare, multiple forms of financial aid, and a counselor who can troubleshoot with you right into your new job.
“I really encourage workers to look for a training provider that really can wrap around them and support them through their process, end-to-end,” says Morgan, who works primarily with STARs, which is aimed at the 70 million skilled U.S. workers who do not have college degrees, but are skilled through alternative routes.
Many colleges offer everything discussed here, though each is different. Here are two examples of current programs, both at historically black schools:
—Atlanta Metropolitan State College partners with Year Up, for a program in which students gain professional development on topics like software development, help desk support and client services. Internships with companies such as AT&T, JP Morgan Chase and Salesforce ensue and, if all goes well, a permanent job.
—Kentucky State University has a partnership with Toyota in which top engineering students receive a full scholarship to complete three years at Kentucky State University and two years at the University of Kentucky, along with Toyota internships, and exit with a fulltime job.
Don’t go it alone
Wading through all these options is far more complicated than it should be — which is Broady’s point. You should be able to simply apply for a job, and receive an email from the employer saying, “We’d love to hire you, but you’ll need to concurrently do this training program. Would you prefer to do it in the evenings or on Fridays?” Nearly no one receives that email. So here we are.
If this is all overwhelming, a good place to start is a conversation with the career advisor at your local employment center. “If you’re a cashier, you’re probably looking for another cashier job. But you need someone to say, ‘Your cashiering skills probably prepare you for a bank teller job,’” Morgan says. Then let the advisor refer you to a list of training providers. Identify a program intertwined with major employers, and get yourself a shiny new career. Good luck out there.