Sometimes, social research does have ready answers. Editorial writers asked whether anyone knows how to provide our labor force with the education and training it needs. Ellen Shelton responded, “Yes,” in her OpEd, "Work force training tactics show results."
Five years of study by Wilder Research, for the McKnight Foundation, showed that training programs, with certain features, can improve the skills of low-wage workers and even enable them to increase their wages.
For optimal effectiveness, programs should meet both employer and worker needs. This capitalizes on the motivation of both parties to do something that is relevant to business needs and that actually works for the individuals involved.
Programs must be accessible. Transportation, child care, equipment may have to be provided to trainees, who often cannot afford to provide this for themselves.
Problem-solving and communication skills should be included in training programs. Throughout society in general, achievements occur through partnerships; the workplace is no exception. The workforce of tomorrow needs teamwork skills.
Building an economically productive workforce requires more than this, of course. Admittedly, training programs with these features may not meet all the needs we have, but they will help to strengthen the skills of one large portion of the workforce.
If we stimulate economic development on the one hand, and get our labor force into optimal condition on the other hand, we will build economically thriving communities.
(More about this study of the McKnight Families Forward program appears on the Wilder Research web site and the Governor’s Workforce Development Council web site. The OpEd appears in the Pioneer Press.)