The global economy is rapidly changing. To remain competitive, workers must update and refresh their skills often throughout their working lives. That need is particularly relevant for older workers as they stay in the workforce longer, either because they want to or because they must.
The rapid evolution of technology, specifically automation and artificial intelligence (AI), holds both great promise and tremendous challenge for the future of work. Work is expected to change in three critical ways: certain jobs will be eliminated, new jobs will be created, and the nature of work will change as automation and AI are used to enhance and complement human capabilities.
One significant barrier to obtaining needed education and training is the access to funds to pay for it. There is limited financial assistance for older workers who want to attend nontraditional educational programs. Pell Grants have been a major source of federal funding. They have allowed low-income undergraduate students to pursue their first bachelor’s degree or credential. However, some Pell Grant requirements make it difficult for older workers to avail themselves of this program. For example, they require minimum course loads and are not available for people pursuing a second credential in order to re-skill. Pell Grants are an important source of grant money for adults who want education and training. Only a tiny proportion of all recipients are over the age of 50. Because the program was designed to help low-income undergraduates, some provisions are not suitable for older workers. For example, eligibility criteria are premised on the previous year’s income. That may exclude the newly unemployed who recently held jobs with a decent salary. In addition, eligibility criteria were designed to determine how much financial support parents are allowed to contribute. Older workers do not generally have parents contributing to their educational costs.
Useful and accurate information is needed when determining whether to pursue additional education and training. It is also necessary for deciding what training to pursue. People need to know whether programs offer value for money and whether they are likely to lead to sustainable jobs that pay good wages and benefits. It is also important for people to know whether they have the qualifications to successfully complete training.
Government policies can help to ensure that education and training programs offer good value and reduce fraudulent practices at educational institutions (see also Student Loans).
JOB TRAINING AND EDUCATION: Policy
JOB TRAINING AND EDUCATION: Policy
Training and education programs
Federal and state governments should develop integrated education and training models that ensure lifelong learning and employment-related skills development. Training providers should be held accountable for preparing students for success in the labor market.
Leaders in both the public and private sectors should facilitate human capital development programs to re-skill workers who are displaced by automation and help workers to develop the skills necessary to adapt to the uses of automation in the workplace.
Workforce development providers should facilitate the development of training and retraining programs that provide workers with skills leading to jobs in high-growth industries and occupations that pay well.
Employers should enable workers to continue to develop new skills while employed.
Workforce development providers should counsel older workers and job-seekers on the availability of effective training suited to their needs and interests. They should also provide information about the cost of training, the availability of financial assistance, and the likelihood of successfully completing any training program. It is important that trainees understand the value to employers of any credential earned, the probability of finding employment after training, and the likely wages, benefits, and opportunities in that occupation.
Priority for job training and placement services should be given to individuals with barriers to employment as specified in the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA). Resources under the WIOA should be expanded to invest more in retraining and in evaluating the efficacy of existing programs.
Education and training providers
State policymakers should encourage public two-year institutions of higher education and other career and technical education institutions to help displaced workers complete programs efficiently and flexibly. They should also help them return to work as quickly as possible.
The Department of Education should implement policies to eliminate fraud, deception, and abuse in institutions accredited to receive student financial assistance under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. These policies should seek to ensure that low-income students have access to adequate educational opportunities that lead to employment and whose costs, including debt burdens, are commensurate with income outcomes.
States should establish strong criteria for the authorization and licensure of educational institutions and require accountability from institutions and programs providing education within the state.
The Pell Grant program should be amended to improve access for older and displaced workers. It should do so by providing support to individuals, including people with bachelor’s degrees, seeking short-term occupational programs. Pell Grants should also be available to adult learners who are financially independent but who may have experienced disruption in income due to unemployment.
Recipients of job-training allowances and federal financial assistance should be able to enroll simultaneously in adult basic education and literacy and postsecondary occupational and academic programs.
Federal and state loans and loan forgiveness programs should be modified to recognize the needs and characteristics of older workers (see also Student Loans).
States should dedicate resources to foster local- and regional-level collaboration of job-training efforts among employers, workforce development centers, libraries, and education and training providers. The efforts should be based on particular industries or industry sectors. An intermediary organization should be designated to oversee the collaboration.
Part-time work should be fully recognized in publicly supported job-training programs.