In an era of limited government resources, we look to focus training dollars in a way that will have a meaningful and cost‐effective impact in improving the lifetime incomes of those receiving training. The targeted groups are people with low skills and incomes but substantial motivation and evidence that they will benefit from training such as consistent labor force attachment. Training support is meant to provide an opportunity for people to garner the basic skills needed to move up the occupational ladder.
People with low skills already have substantial incentives to get training, since acquiring new skills is a pathway to higher incomes. Many low‐skilled workers, however, face substantial obstacles to utilizing training, including the potential cost of training. For people of modest financial means and limited access to credit, even the cost of community college could be an insurmountable obstacle, as could the cost of paying for others to care for dependents while taking training. Moreover, many workers in low‐skill occupations are not likely to receive on‐ the‐job training—a garage attendant or janitor, for example, might have the motivation to consistently show up to work and the non‐cognitive and social skills to perform at a high level but still never have the opportunity to advance. A lump sum of training funds could allow such a worker to take remedial courses and learn the skills needed to move up the occupational ladder. Training could help allow a garage attendant or janitor to become an MRI technician or home health care aide.
The empirical training literature suggests as well that motivation is a key determinant of the success of training programs. The second component of our proposal thus targets groups such as single mothers who have considerable motivation to move up.
Our proposal would extend training support to low‐skilled people who are currently employed. Some $18 billion of federal money is now spent on a welter of programs related to training and job search, but workers are generally not eligible for federal training assistance while they remain employed. We turn this on its head and make evidence of reliable employment—of strong labor force attachment, in the jargon—a qualifier for assistance. This thus serves to increase skills for those taking it up and as an incentive for employment for those not currently eligible.