job training office_3

Anyone who’s worked in the “real world” knows and has internalized the fact that the boss doesn’t value you for your skill set, but rather for your willingness to take and follow orders  — with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

As the Business Roundtable continues its successful campaign to convert public schools into a pipeline designed to create a compliant workforce, its critical to look back and trace the history of the ideas being promoted by business as solutions to society’s economic problems.

Job training is THE business preferred answer to unemployment and poverty. Best of all, it’s an idea even progressives can embrace.

It may come as a surprise, but the champion of the job training solution was President Reagan, who held up the want ads from the newspaper and famously declared there were plenty of well paying jobs. The problem, as framed by Reagan, was there just weren’t enough qualified individuals to fill these positions.

What on the surface appeared to be a political stunt masked a shrewd and radical re-definition of the government’s role in employment policy. In short, the government would no longer be the employer of last resort, reversing FDR’s and the New Deal Democrats approach to unemployment.

This had grave implications for America’s workers. First, by eliminating the federal government from competing with and driving up wages in the private sector. Second, by shifting the political responsibility for unemployment and poverty from the job market to the the workers themselves.

Here’s the first take away lesson on job training:

  • Job Training shifts responsibility for poverty from the job market to the individual failing of workers. The argument changes from “there aren’t enough living wages jobs” to “there’s plenty of jobs but workers are too lazy, stupid, or unskilled to qualify.”

What’s the most in demand skill employers just can’t seem to find?

The answer depends on when you asked the question. In the 1980’s it was computer skills, in the 90’s the ability to work in teams, and in the early 2000’s being a creative knowledge worker. Of course, today its all about STEM.

Through all of the years of hype over the next big thing, one in demand skill remained consistent: obedience.

Of course, we already knew that.

Anyone who’s worked in the “real world” knows and has internalized the fact that the boss doesn’t value you for your skill set, but rather for your willingness to take and follow orders  — with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

The second take away lesson on job training:

  • The most in demand skill for employers is obedience, which gets the 21st Century makeover of “conscientiousness”, “dependability”, and “motivation”. This makes sense because maximum profit is exacted when workers not only obediently do the work, but do the task exactly in the way the employer demands

So, what is a proven way to increase wages and benefits for workers, especially for women and people of color?

Union membership.

Don’t believe me? Look it up. It’s called the union premium. This is also the reason why business funded think tanks have spent so much time trying to discredit unions.

Why are unions considered so dangerous by business?

Because they’re a political solution to an economic problem. If people understand they can organize and fight for better wages, jobs, and working conditions, business doesn’t get to dictate the terms of the debate and is no longer allowed to become the self-appointed expert on all things related to employment.

What’s the third take away lesson?

When it comes to wages and benefits, union membership beats job training by a mile.

Imagine that.

-Carolyn Leith