The federal government has funded job training programs for decades, but they have never worked very well.
Examining these programs in 2011, the Government Accountability Office found that “little is known about the effectiveness of employment and training programs.”
Other studies have come to similar conclusions. If we can’t show that programs work, why fund them?
One of the problems is mismanagement. The word “boondoggle” was coined in the 1930s to describe federal jobs programs, and a 2011 report by Sen. Tom Coburn found that the word still applies.
When federal training funds flow to local governments and contractors, they often get wasted. Coburn found “excessive duplication, a lack of demonstrable results, and outrageous examples (of) waste, fraud, abuse and graft.”
The good news is that private markets provide vast job training. U.S. organizations spend more than $160 billion a year on worker training and development, according to the Association for Talent Development. And individuals are taking charge of their own training: Community colleges award 1.3 million degrees and certificates a year, many to students who pay their own way without federal aid.
Another source of training is temporary staffing firms, which employ a rotating group of 16 million people a year in offices, hospitals and industrial jobs. They provide a great way to gain on-the-job experience in top companies, and they often offer in-house training as well.
These days, job training and education are moving online. More than 7 million students a year now take college courses online. Online education has filled the need for lower-cost and flexible options in today’s dynamic economy.
A new development is the growth in mass open online courses. Dozens of top universities, such as Harvard and MIT, have teamed with MOOC firms to provide hundreds of certificate courses on everything from computer coding to dairy farm management.
Federal job training programs have always been of dubious value, but in the Internet era they have become obsolete.
This article originally appeared in USA Today on June 5, 2016.