Beyond Consensus: Much Ado about Job Training

Nearly everyone agrees that training is a valuable tool for reducing unemployment, underemployment, and income disparity as well as for increasing adaptability in the global economy. Publicly sponsored training appeals to us particularly because it mixes individual responsibility with collective compassion. Yet training consistently looms far larger in policy talk than in public budgets.

To some extent, training gets the budget share it deserves. Much rhetoric on training overpromises. The notion that "If we train, then the jobs will come" is shaky at best. Still, we have learned a great deal, both from our successes and from our failures in training policy, over the past three decades. On the whole, little of what we have learned disturbs the initial intuition that training policy, effectively designed, can be a useful economic and social policy tool. And, after 30 years at it, we know how to design effective training programs.