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  • Writer's pictureProject on Workforce Team

The Recession Exposes the US’ Failures on Worker Retraining

Unemployment is high, and many pre-pandemic jobs will not return. But the US spends a smaller share of its economy on training than most developed nations.

Project on Workforce faculty featured in Wired article on worker retraining:

"'What I would worry most about is how to help the longer-term unemployed, who basically haven’t been working since the pandemic started,' said David Deming, professor of public policy at Harvard and faculty director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. 'How do we help them get back on their feet? The US doesn’t do a good job, under any circumstances, of helping people make those transitions.'


Even with increased investment, community colleges and workforce groups may face challenges providing people the right skills, given the rapid pace of technological change and the opacity of what businesses are seeking, said Joseph Fuller, a Harvard Business School professor and a cohead of the university’s Managing the Future of Work project.

The good news is that even before the pandemic, some companies had begun to realize that they needed to take a more active role in training workers and sharing information about sought-after skills, Fuller said. Efforts like the Open Skills Network, a collaboration among employers, education groups, and technology providers, could help bridge the gap between how institutions train workers and what businesses need, he said. The network, whose members include the online Western Governors University and Walmart, seeks to advance a skills-based system of education and hiring, so that people in search of workforce retraining have a better understanding of the specific skills companies are looking for and how to acquire them.

'One of the things that contributes a lot to the failure of our skills system is there just isn’t good information flow,' said Fuller."


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