One of the many boondoggles of government incompetence and worthless spending has been the Job Corps, which for 55 years has provided vocational training to enrollees from impoverished backgrounds. But according to most observers, this $1.7 billion per year program has not produced the results intended. Graduates often end up in low-skill and low-wage jobs for which their training is irrelevant and discipline problems are rampant at many of the program’s 123 training centers. The Trump administration is attempting to close a number of these centers and privatize others, but of course intensive lobbying has been organized to block the initiative, and the administration has now shelved its plans to privatize or close the centers. So another boondoggle lives on.
But the problem this program was designed to address will also live on. The country very badly needs vocational training for the jobs of the 21st century, both for new entrants to the workforce and those who could be adaptable for better and/or more relevant high-skilled jobs.
Amazon has the right idea–a private sector response to this void that, if it catches on, might possibly displace the government. Their plan is to retrain one-third of its U. S. workforce by the year 2025 and it is proposing to spend $700 million on educational programs and pay up to $12,000 for warehouse workers to earn certificates or degrees in high-demand occupations, as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and these jobs won’t be indentured to Amazon. They will also fund graduate-level education for the company’s software engineers at its Machine Learning University.
Of course, this isn’t altruism; this is purely in Amazon’s interest, and not every company has the resources to step up to this extent. Amazon gets kicked around quite a bit by politicians and some of it is probably deserved, but these plans should be celebrated and applauded as an innovative and bold response to a pressing need without adding to student debt or taxpayer funding of government incompetence.