NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 23, 2004

The federally-funded Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998 -- the primary legislation for employment and training programs at the U.S. Department of Labor -- is unproven and may be as ineffective as previous initiatives, according to the Heritage Foundation.

As part of the WIA bill, Congress mandated that the Department of Labor assess the effectiveness of the bill by 2005, but now, almost six years later, little evaluation has been done.

However, if the WIA bill works anything like the last federally funded job-training program -- the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) of 1982 -- the results may show that federal job-training programs fall short. According to researchers:

  • Job-training programs are designed to increase the skills, hence the hourly wages of workers; yet, the JTPA programs did not have a significant effect on adult wages (youth wages were not studied)
  • Job training programs may not be providing the skills needed in the workforce; a 2001 survey of manufacturers revealed that two-thirds of them could not find enough qualified applicants to maintain production levels and meet customer demand.
  • Job-training programs may focus on vocational training, but many trainees lack high school basics; the same survey revealed that one-third of job applications were rejected due to the applicant's lack of basic reading and writing skills.

President Bush has proposed changes to the WIA program, but even with changes, no reliable data exists on WIA's impact. Federally-funded job training programs, including WIA (which received $5.15 in FY 2004), should be phased out. Instead, Congress should wait until states and localities have evaluated their own programs to determine which services are needed.

Source: David Muhlhausen, and Paul Kersey, "In the Dark on Job Training: Federal Job-Training Programs Have a Record of Failure," Backgrounder 1774, Heritage Foundation, July 6, 2004 and Larry L. Orr et al., "Does Training for the Disadvantaged Work? Evidence from the National JTPA Study," Urban Institute Press, January 1996.


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