Jobs and Job Training: Programs and Policies
People who do not want to rely on income support programs have another option: they can try to get into a job training program or perhaps obtain a publicly created job. Yet those pursuing this alternative face many obstacles. Few programs rank as an unqualified success; the actual number of vacancies has never amounted to more than a small fraction of potential trainees, per- haps one of every twenty workers,1and the programs themselves have always targeted the poor. So, not only is it hard to get into a program and the programs help only a little, but the skills participants gain usually come with a stigma.
These difficulties share a common origin. Unlike in European countries, employment policy in the United States has never tried to match the needs of business for a labor force with the employment needs of all workers. In- stead, it has left that task to the job market, making just a modest investment in the training of workers—the "disadvantaged" and people of color—who could not find work on their own. As a consequence, although some U.S. employment programs involve workfare and many are linked to welfare, most bear the marks of a residual social policy.
In training programs, as in so many other matters, modest investments have produced modest gains: too few slots, very brief training periods, and, except for those workers who were retrained after losing well-paying jobs, salaries that rarely rose much above the poverty line. During the second