WHEN you ask children what they want to be when they grow up,
they don't say, "I want a boring job where the only thing I look
forward to is Friday."
The continued success of American society and the free-market
system depends on all of its people having access to meaningful,
productive, and rewarding work. But for many people, being willing
and able to work is not enough to get or keep a job.
Technology shifts, defense conversion, corporate downsizing to
improve productivity, and foreign competition are dislocating
millions of workers. These people haven't been laid off; their jobs
are gone. And while new jobs are being created, they are for a very
different kind of worker.
These structural changes demand a new system of job training for
the unemployed or those threatened with loss of their jobs. The
Reemployment Act of 1994, now pending before Congress, calls for a
shift from an unemployment system to a reemployment system.
Dislocated workers must acquire skills that can transfer to other
jobs as the market dictates.
Unfortunately, many dislocated workers (as well as new entrants)
are not adequately prepared for the jobs being created by
information technology. For them, the lack of necessary skills is
often a ticket to poverty. Many others are barred by lack of
education, lack of hope, and lack of access to these new jobs and
this new world of work - a world that needs their perspectives and
The Reemployment Act should erase some of these barriers. It
proposes consolidation and replacement of six existing programs,
each designed to address different causes of worker dislocation. We
need to go further. We must create "one-stop" career centers for
all federal job training programs - centers where dislocated
workers can receive counseling, assessment, job search assistance,
labor market information, and other basic transition services. Like
any well-run business, these programs should be required to meet
acceptable performance standards.
But legislation is only a partial solution. Businesses must take
the lead in eliminating other barriers in a work force rapidly
evolving away from the traditional blue- or white-collar
categories. The new "no collar" jobs being created demand skills
in technology and decisionmaking, plus personal insight.
For American business to remain competitive, we must give
workers access to continual retraining. There must be access to
employment by an increasingly diverse talent pool, and access by
workers to power over the work they do, which means a new approach
to management as well. …