Pushing on a String

What exactly did "No Worker Left Behind" accomplish?

Yesterday, the Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth announced that its “No Worker Left Behind” program had achieved its goal of enrolling 100,000 participants almost a year early. The program pays community college tuition for displaced workers.

This is good news if you don’t think about it too much. On closer inspection though, it looks more like the state is pushing on a string. Employers are entirely willing to provide their own job training when they see a genuine opportunity and need staff to make the most of it. Training provided by employers tends to come attached to an actual job, something that cannot generally be said for state-funded worker retraining programs like NWLB. To this point, DELEG has yet to produce any evidence NWLB participants have had a better track record at finding work than other displaced Michigan workers.

Basically, the state is encouraging unemployed workers to take years out of their lives to take classes that might not help them land jobs, a waste of their time and our money, with maybe just a whiff of cruelty to it. Success needs to be measured by the number of people who find jobs, not the number of participants in a government program.

If the state wants to improve its workforce, it should focus on reforming K-12 education with an eye toward re-establishing a high-school diploma as something of value, and leave the rest of worker training to employers.