July 19, 2011

Training for Jobs That Don't Exist

Justin Katz

Under normal circumstances, this program might be an unalloyed positive, and I do believe that every student should have some familiarity with construction and trades:

On Olmsted Way, a short street across from the Wanskuck Mill on Charles Street, 10 graduates of the YouthBuild Providence program are at work this summer, renovating 24 apartments in two buildings at the Olmsted Gardens affordable-housing complex. ...

In the YouthBuild Providence program, www.youthbuildprov.org, part of the national YouthBuild network, low-income youths ages 16 to 24 work to earn their GEDs or high school diplomas while also learning job skills by building affordable housing. Marques said the 10-month educational program includes alternating weeks of classroom work and on-the-job training.

The money for the program appears to come, ultimately, through the federal government, in part (one infers) by paying for the projects, which thereby operate with the inexpensive labor. But are public dollars spent on training for a flailing industry really a good idea?

The organization's Web site calls construction "a booming industry in our state that is poised for substantial growth." Another article in Sunday's Providence Journal, however, describes the industry's employment position as follows:

In building construction, slight job gains in commercial and industrial construction are being swamped by losses in residential, where foreclosures, tight credit and depressed prices have taken a toll. In June, residential and commercial building companies employed 1.2 million workers, down 15,900, or 1.3% from a year earlier, according to the Labor Department.

Back in October, Rhode Island led the nation in its percentage of construction jobs lost, and I haven't seen any evidence that much has changed. That means that job training programs focusing on building are adding low-end labor to an industry that already has a great deal of downward pressure on employment and salaries. And a 10-month program does so relatively quickly.

That sounds like a blueprint for stagnation for older workers and disappointment for new entrants to the trade. Were it a (gasp) for-profit program — with enrollees paying for their training — it would have to adjust to economic trends. With government funding, the folks making the financial decisions aren't those who stand to gain or lose by graduates' success or failure, and the bureaucracy in place to funnel the funds generates its own motivation.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

"But are public dollars spent on training for a flailing industry really a good idea?"

As the mutual fund ads say "Past performance is no indicator of future performance".

While I don't believe that government frequently picks winners, this is better than a lot of programs I have heard of. I would rather hear a 20 year old kid say "I'm a carpenter", than "I've had a few jobs", or, "I'm not doing anything".

It is a skill of some sort, rather than nothing. Construction may improve here, if not, there is a chance to move elsewhere.

I do wonder about the possibility of moving from public sector work, to private sector.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 19, 2011 1:41 PM

Ha, remember back around ten years ago when "biotech" was the next big thing that was going to save Rhode Island? We're still waiting...

Posted by: Chris at July 19, 2011 4:20 PM


What were the circumstances of the introduction to the building trades for you?

Posted by: Phil at July 19, 2011 8:36 PM

"remember back around ten years ago when "biotech" was the next big thing that was going to save Rhode Island?"

Try and keep up, Chris: "Knowledge District" is the new "biotech". It's DEFINITELY going to save Rhode Island ...

Posted by: Monique at July 19, 2011 10:21 PM

Violating prevailing wage laws is OK by progressives as long as its called 'education' and it provides the means to in entrap more of their constituency in the cycle of welfare.

Posted by: Max Diesel at July 19, 2011 11:54 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Important note: The text "http:" cannot appear anywhere in your comment.