Last night, President Obama, in his State of the Union speech, called for “an across-the-board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now. That means more on-the-job training, and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life.”
The President added, “And if Congress wants to help, you can concentrate funding on proven programs that connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.” However, the promise of federal job training programs has never lived up to the rhetoric of politicians.
In my book Do Federal Social Programs Work?, I present the evidence from every multi-site experimental evaluation of federal job-training programs published since 1990. Based on these scientifically rigorous evaluations using the “gold standard” of random assignment, these studies consistently find failure. Federal job training programs targeting youth and young adults have been found to be extraordinarily ineffective. The simple fact is that when it comes to federal job training programs, there is a dearth of evidence suggesting that these programs work.
If Congress takes up the President’s plan, then it should insist that these programs undergo scientifically rigorous evaluations that use random assignment to ensure that taxpayers know whether their hard-earned money is being wasted or not.