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New Study Highlights Importance of Job Training for Low-Wage Workers and Need for Better Awareness of Training Programs

Mar 28, 2013

By Neil Ridley and Patrick Reimherr

A new study issued by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs, Paths to Opportunity: Perspectives from Lower-Wage Workers and Their Employers, provides a snapshot of worker and employer perspectives on the economic outlook, working conditions, and opportunities for advancement in lower-wage occupations (defined as jobs paying $35,000 or less per year). With recent analyses showing disproportionate growth in lower-wage jobs since the end of the recession, it is essential to understand the dynamics of low-wage work in order to rebuild paths to middle-class jobs.

Major findings from the report include:

  • Most employers of lower-wage workers say that while these workers do acquire the needed skills over time, they are not prepared when they are first hired. While a large majority of employers believe that training is critical for career advancement, low-wage workers are more skeptical about the value of education and training.
  • Compared to all workers, lower-wage workers are far less likely to be satisfied in their job or to feel valued for the work they do. Lower-wage workers perceive few opportunities for advancement and many have not yet advanced in their current jobs.
  • Lower-wage workers are not aware of and are not taking advantage of government-sponsored benefits and training programs. Similarly, only a small minority of employers are participating in public-private partnerships and taking advantage of other government-funded training opportunities partly because they are not aware of them.

The findings suggest that policymakers should explore ways to increase opportunities for skill development and low-wage workers’ awareness of those benefits and opportunities. As Congress considers reauthorization of education and training programs, such as those in the Workforce Investment Act, it is important to ensure that low-wage workers have better access to opportunities for training and career advancement.

For the full report, see Paths to Opportunity: Perspectives from Lower-Wage Workers and Their Employers.>>

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