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  • Writer's pictureProject on Workforce Team

Closing the Middle Skills Gap in Postsecondary Education

Text Stanford Social Innovation Review within a circle

"First, spiking student debt has become unsustainable, tripling over the past 20 years and swelling the ranks of Americans paying for college without earning a degree. This, along with the paradigm shifts of the pandemic, has triggered a broader reassessment of higher education. A new poll shows that, for the first time, a clear majority of Americans (56 percent) doubt the value of a college degree, with skepticism especially high among younger respondents.


The other answer lies in what so many elected officials describe as “job training.” But the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the flagship federal legislation governing job training, badly needs an update. A 2017 randomized evaluation across 28 sites found no detectable wage increases from WIOA-funded training programs. A new report released in March from Harvard’s Project on Workforce found median annual earnings of just $29,388 nine months after completing a WIOA-funded training program, implying America’s most consequential federal job-training apparatus leaves its median participant earning less than the majority of high school dropouts.


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