BERKELEY – A highly trained workforce is a public good, crucial not only to the prosperity of workers themselves, but also to the strength of the entire economy. And, as with most public goods, the United States has been underinvesting in it for decades, leaving many American workers without the skills they need to get well-paying jobs.
Fortunately, there are signs of improvement. As the American labor market tightens and a growing chorus of companies complains that they cannot find skilled workers, innovative partnerships between governments, employers, and educational institutions are beginning to fill the void.
Governments bear the primary responsibility for funding workforce training. But effective programs require more than just money; they need employers and educators who can identify the necessary skills, create the structures to teach them, and match trained workers with available jobs. To be successful in achieving these goals, training programs must keep pace with rapid changes in technology and the consequent evolution in the labor market.
In short, workforce training requires both more investment and more innovation through new kinds of public-private partnerships, degree-granting institutions, and approaches to life-long learning and re-skilling. Innovative approaches can pop up almost anywhere, and government has a critical role to play in promoting them: rigorously evaluating programs, scaling up those that work, and withdrawing funding from those that do not.