A Strong Economy.
U.S. investments in skills are not aligned with labor market realities. The U.S. has cut investments in skills attainment—particularly for workforce education and training that occurs outside K-12 and traditional higher education systems—at a time when a skilled workforce is more critical than ever if our nation is to remain competitive in the global economy. Between 2002 and 2008, funding for education and training programs under the Department of Labor had been cut by almost 30 percent, and workforce funding at Department of Education has not even kept up with inflation. The U.S. spends only .04 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on job training, ranking 21st out of 25 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development internationally and far behind countries like Great Britain, Germany, France, and Canada.
What’s more, in a society where “you measure what matters,” we do not even bother to count the full range of skilled credentials and degrees that Americans are earning with our public dollars—let alone assess how many of those credentials actually match up with skilled jobs in the labor market. While our state and federal governments do track the attainment of traditional high school and college degrees, they tend to ignore how many middle-skill credentials are being earned, even as such credentials provide immediate entry into the majority of skilled occupations in today’s economy.
Competing nations collect such credential data, and therefore know the skills they are producing with their workforce investments, as well as what returns those investments are bringing to local economies. Without this same information, U.S. policymakers cannot set national targets for raising the skills of the U.S. workforce, nor can they ensure we are making the best use of every available education and training dollar.
One policy strategy to address this challenge: Proportionate Investment
National Skills Coalition believes policy makers must develop strategy for investing resources that is shaped by the actual skill demands of the 21st-century labor market and the necessity of preparing all types of workers for skilled jobs. We must invest in people to keep the U.S. workforce at the cutting edge of the global economy, and ensure those investments are producing the full spectrum of skilled credentials demanded by our economy—job-readiness certificates, occupational credentials and industry certifications, in addition to secondary and postsecondary degrees.
Click here to learn about National Skills Coalition’s national skills strategy.