The Recession Exposes the US’ Failures on Worker Retraining

The Recession Exposes the US’ Failures on Worker Retraining Main Photo

10 Mar 2021


Saeed Shareef BADLY wanted to get out of the restaurant industry.

Shareef, 30, had started working as a server a decade earlier, after realizing he couldn’t afford the price of a four-year college degree. He’d done stints at Buffalo Wild Wings, Papa John’s and the Cheesecake Factory. But the money wasn’t great, the work was unsatisfying, and poor treatment from customers left him increasingly fed up.

Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and Shareef was laid off. That’s been an all-too-common scenario. What happened next has not. Shareef’s mother saw a TV commercial for a program that offered 12 weeks of training for technology careers, tuition-free. Buoyed by unemployment benefits, Shareef enrolled, and four months later, he started work as a junior web developer for a retail company in his hometown of Cincinnati.

Workforce experts say that Shareef’s story should be routine. But it is exceptional. With an overlapping and sometimes confusing array of job training programs scattered around the country, and too little coordinated information about what sorts of training various employers need, there is no central place for workers to turn for help or some assurance that their investment in retraining will pay off. Shareef found the program via the sheer good luck of his mother noticing the TV ad.

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