Anthony Carnevale: Skills Mismatch Not the Whole Story

Whatever you think about the effectiveness of federal job training programs, Amy Goldstein’s story in Saturday’s Washington Post notes the basic problem with relying too heavily on job training to solve the country’s unemployment problem by itself.

Anthony Carnevale, the director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, which has produced valuable research on the relationship between earnings and educational attainment—including the long-term value of a college education—acknowledges, according to Goldstein that “retraining can’t always overcome a scarcity of jobs.” She writes:

That skills mismatch, while real, is not the whole story, Carnevale says. At the moment, he points out, the country has 3 million to 4 million job openings. But if you add up the people who are unemployed, in part-time jobs because that’s all they could find or so discouraged that they’ve quit looking for work, he says, the country has more than 20 million people who could use a job. (my emphasis)

In other words, not enough jobs are out there, even if every single person who needed re-training received it. None of this means that re-training, investments in community colleges, and increasing access to higher education are bad policies, but it does suggest that there are other factors that need to addressed in order to fully address inequality and economic opportunity.

Interestingly, the Post comes back today with a story on the skills mismatch in some areas of the manufacturing sector.