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How workers get their training.

Knowledge of how workers in different occupations train to qualify for their jobs and improve their skills is useful to counselors who assist clients with the career decision process. It also is helpful to educational institutions, government agencies, and employers in planning education and training programs. For these reasons, the various sources of training for many different occupations are identified in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook and other career literature. However, precise information on training has rarely been available. For example, postsecondary schools and the Armed Forces are known to train electrical and electronics technicians, but exact data on the proportion of employed technicians who have this kind of training have not been available.

To learn more about occupational training, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, under a contract with the Employment and Training Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor, has analyzed data collected by the Census Bureau in a supplement to the January 1983 Current Population Survey. The supplement was developed around two basic questions: "Did you need specific skills or training to obtain your current job?" and "Since you obtained your present job, did you

take any training to improve your skills?" In each case, people who responded "yes" were asked to identify the source or sources of the training and provide additional information. Many workers identified more than one source of training. Individuals did not identify the most important source of training, so the results simply indicate the frequency of a response.

About 55 percent of all workers employed in January 1983 indicated that they needed specific training to qualify for their current job. And about one-third of all workers had taken skill improvement training after obtaining their current job. Many workers had both qualifying training and training to improve their skills; about 72 percent of those who needed training to obtain their jobs subsequently trained to improve their skills.

Among major occupational groups, the proportion of workers who reported needing training to get their jobs varied widely. In professional specialty occupations, 93 percent of the workers needed training, compared to only 8 percent of the workers in private household occupations. With regard to skill improvement, the proportion who took training ranged from 61 percent in professional specialty occupations to 3 percent in private household occupations. The kind of training taken also varied widely, with more than one kind being indicated for each occupation.

These and all other statistics from the survey should be regarded as indicators of general magnitude rather than precise measures for several reasons. In some cases, for example, people may have reported their occupation or the training required incorrectly. Indeed, small percentages of workers in occupations that obviously have strict educational requirements, such as dentist and physician, reported no need for training to get their jobs. Furthermore, because the information was obtained from the workers, it represents what they believe is the training required rather than what employers state is the training required for the job.

Sources of Training

School and informal on-the-job training (OJT) were the most common sources of both qualifying and additional training. About 29 percent of all workers obtained qualifying training in school and 28 percent obtained it on the job. OJT was used to improve skills by 14 percent of all workers; school programs, by 12 percent. Almost the same proportion of workers (10 and 11 percent) used training from formal company programs to qualify for jobs and to improve skills.

Relatively few workers acquired either qualifying or skill improvement training from other sources, such as correspondence courses, the Armed Forces, or friends and relatives. The sources of training for the major occupational groups are shown in tables 1 and 2. The multi-page table, "How Workers Were Trained", shows sources of training for detailed occupations. Instances in which particular sources of training were frequently mentioned for specific occupations are noted in the following discussion.

College programs that lasted 4 years or longer provided qualifying training to more workers than all other school categories combined. About 16.1 million people or 17 percent of all workers reported training from college programs. Strikingly, just five occupations accounted for one-fourth of the total: Elementary school teacher, secondary school teacher, registered nurse, lawyer, and physician. Only two occupations--elementary school teacher and secondary school teacher--accounted for more than one-fourth of the workers who improved their skills by attending college programs that lasted 4 years or longer.

Junior colleges and technical institutes were major providers of qualifying training for workers in many health occupations, including inhalation therapists, dental hygienists, radiologic technicians, and licensed practical nurses. Many police and detectives, firefighters, and real estate sales workers improved their job skills through courses in junior colleges and technical institutes. These schools also were a more important source of skill improvement for secretaries than other schools.

Only 2.2 percent of all workers used training from private post-high school vocational programs to get their jobs; the proportion who used training from public post-high school programs was even smaller--1.6 percent. Nevertheless, these schools were significant for some occupations. Almost one-half of the hairdressers and cosmetologists and almost one-third of the barbers qualified for their jobs through private vocational programs, and about one-fourth of the licensed practical nurses qualified through public vocational programs.

Although only about 5 percent of all workers qualified for their jobs with training from high school vocational programs, these programs were a very important source of training for workers in administrative support occupations, including clerical. About 35 percent of the secretaries obtained their jobs with skills from such programs. This training was also important for typists, stenographers, bookkeepers, personnel clerks, drafters, automobile mechanics, and compositors and typesetters.

By far the most important source of qualifying training other than school was OJT, which was mentioned even more often than school as a way that skills were improved. It was used to gain qualifying skills by 50 to 60 percent of the workers in such diverse occupations as legal assistant, actor, upholsterer, and editor and reporter.

Formal company training programs such as apprenticeship training or other types of training having an instructor and a planned program were mentioned by only 11 percent of all workers. However, these training programs were reported by large proportions of police and detectives, insurance sales workers, real estate sales workers, telephone installers and repairers, electricians, bus drivers, and plumbers as the source of their qualifying training. These programs were also an important source of skill improvement training for workers in many of these occupations, as well as for computer systems analysts, electrical and electronic engineers, registered nurses, and public administrators and officials. The programs tended to be of short duration. About one-half of the qualifying programs and almost three-fourths of the skill improvement programs reported by workers lasted under 12 weeks; less than one-fourth of the qualifying programs and less than one-tenth of the skill improvement programs lasted 53 weeks or more.

About 3.2 million people or 3 percent of all workers got their jobs because of informal training from a friend or relative or other experience unrelated to work. Almost one-third of all workers who reported this category of training were in precision production, craft, and repair jobs. A relatively high proportion of workers in some large occupations, such as farmer, carpenter, and automobile mechanic, learned their skills in this way.

Military service provided training to gain job qualifying skills for only 1.9 million people or 2 percent of all workers; however, almsot one-third of the workers who used this training were in the precision production, craft, and repair groups. Training in the military services was most important for aircraft engine mechanics--about 45 percent of these workers got their jobs as a result of skills learned in the service. The Armed Forces also were a source of skills for more than 20 percent of the data processing equipment repairers and the electronic repairers of commercial and industrial equipment.

Correspondence courses were the least significant method of job training, but they were reported by more than 12 percent of the electronic repairers of commercial and industrial equipment.

Occupational Patterns

The following discussion presents highlights of the results of the survey for major occupational groups. The table, "How Workers Were Trained," provides information for detailed occupations.

Executive, administrative, and managerial occupations. Specific training was a prerequisite for the jobs of 71 percent of the 10.8 million workers in the executive, administrative, and managerial group. Generally, people in this group were more likely than those in other occupational groups to report more than one way of qualifying for their jobs, which seems reasonable since many of these positions require a broad background of education and work experience. Schools were a source of needed skills for 43 percent of all workers in the group, informal on-the-job training (OJT) for 39 percent, and formal company training programs for 12 percent.

College programs that lasted 4 years or longer were the principal source of schooling for almost all managerial occupations. These programs were reported by 34 percent of the workers in the group. Although an even larger percentage of the workers in the group had completed 4 or more years of college, those with degrees who did not say that college was necessary may have attributed their jobs to experience instead of education because advancement to many managerial positions requires years of work experience. In some occupations, college programs were much more important than the average. Three-fourths of the education administrators and two-thirds of the accountants and auditors indicated that they received needed job training in these programs, as well as almost one-half of the financial managers, management analysts, and medicine and health administrators.

In many occupations, the number of workers reporting OJT and the number reporting school were fairly close, each category usually representing about two-fifths to three-fifths of total employment in the occupation. OJT, however, was more important for construction inspectors, business and promotion agents, purchasing agents, buyers, and managers, not elsewhere classified. Some workers in all managerial occupations had received formal company training. About one-fourth of the protective service administrators and the inspectors and compliance officers (except construction) qualified for the jobs through training in formal company programs.

Professional specialty occupations. About 93 percent of the 12.7 million workers in these occupations indicated that they needed some kind of training to qualify for their jobs, the largest proportion of any occupation group. Almost 82 percent of the workers in the professional group learned the necessary skills in school, compared to only 29 percent of the workers in all occupations. OJT was a source of required skills for 22 percent of the professional group, which was somewhat lower than the average for all workers. The proportion of professionals trained by other methods was about average.

About 70 percent of all workers in the professional group reported they needed 4 years or more of college training to obtain their jobs; this represents 90 percent of the workers who have such training. Academic preparation usually was most important to workers who must have a high degree of specialized and theoretical knowledge, such as physicians, lawyers, psychologists, school teachers, and biological and life scientists. College generally was less important in fields that require artistic talent and creative ability, such as photography, design, acting, and music. Junior colleges and technical institutes were reported by only 7 percent of all professional workers, but these schools accounted for almost one-half of the inhalation therapists and almost one-third of the registered nurses. Other methods of schooling were reported by relatively few professional workers.

Except for OJT, nonacademic training was not importatn for most of these workers. OJT was a source of qualifying skills for more than one-half of the actors, economists, and editors and reporters, and almost one-half of the photographers, public relations specialists, mechanical engineers, and computer systems analysts and scientists. In several of these occupations, the number of workers who reported OJT was nearly equal to those who reported schooling; and it was mentioned more frequently than college programs by photographers, actors, and public relations workers. Formal company training programs provided qualifying skills to almost one-third of the operations and systems researchers and analysts.

About 61 percent of the workers in professional specialty occupations had trained to improve their job skills, the largest proportion of any occupation group. More than one-half of the elementary school teachers and secondary school teachers improved their job skills in college programs; they represented almost one-half of all professional specialty workers who reported improving job skills in these programs.

Technician and related occupations. Specific training was necessary for the jobs of almost 85 percent of the 3 million workers in the technician group. About 58 percent of the technicians qualified for their jobs in schools, which was almost twice the average for all workers and second only to the professional group. Technicians also were more likely than other workers to acquire skills informally on the job, in formall company training programs, and in the Armed Forces.

Postsecondary schools provided the bulk of the academic training. College programs that lasted 4 years or longer were a source of training for 24 percent of the workers in the technician group and programs in junior colleges and technical institutes, for 20 percent. Post-high school vocational programs in public and private schools were reported by about 6 percent of the technicians; on the other hand, only 5 percent obtained needed training in high school vocational programs.

College programs lasting 4 years or longer were the primary source of school training for many workers in the technician and related occupation group--dental hygienists, computer programmers, biological technicians, and airplane pilots are some examples. Junior colleges and technical institutes were the princiapl types of school for radiologic technicians, licensed practical nurses, and electrical and electronics technicians. OJT was more important than schooling as a source of qualifying training only for legal assistances, but it was reported by relatively large numbers of computer programmers, drafters, and electrical and electronics technicians. Electrical and electronics technicians also mentioned Armed Forces training in larger than usual numbers.

Skill improvement training was reported by 52 percent of the workers in these occupations. School programs--mostly in junior colleges and technical institutes and 4-year colleges--formal company training programs, and OJT were each reported as sources of skill improvement by about 20 percent of the workers. The formal company programs were most important for the computer programmers, chemical technicians, and electrical and electronics technicians.

Sales occupations. About 43 percent of the 11.2 million sales workers needed specific training to qualify for their jobs, which was somewhat below the average. The proportion using each method was about the same as the average, except that only 15 percent of the sales workers acquired training for their jobs in school, compared to 29 percent of all workers.

Training was mos important for people who sold complex services or products. Specific skills were necessary for more than three-fourths of the sales engineers and workers who sold real estate, insurance, and securities and financial services.

Training usually was less important for employment in retail sales, but requirements varied in different jobs. Only two-fifths of the workers who sold apparel and shoes needed specific training to get their jobs, for example, compared to about four-fifths of those who sold motor vehicles and boats.

Administrative support occupations, including clerical. In this occupational group, 57 percent of the 16.1 million workers needed specific training to qualify for their jobs, slightly more than the average for all workers. Requirements varied greatly for individual occupations within the administrative support group; only 1 out of 8 messengers had to have training to get the job held, for example, compared to 7 our of 8 stenographers.

School was the principal source of training for secretaries, stenographers, and typists. In these occupations combined, 57 percent of the workers were school trained. High school vocational programs in particular were mentioned much more often by these workers than by others. Over one-third of the secretaries and typists prepared for their jobs in such programs, as well as relatively large numbers of stenographers, personnel clerks, billing clerks, and bookkeepers, accounting, and auditing clerks.

More than one-fourth of the transportation and ticket agents needed training in formal company programs to obtain their jobs, compared to only 10 percent of all workers. These programs also were important for telephone operators, computer operators, order clerks, and general office supervisors.

Skill improvement training was reported by 32 percent of the workers in the administrative support group, which is about the same as the average for all occupations. More than one-half of the workers in the following occupations had trained to improve their skills; Production coordinators; transportation ticket and reservation agents; insurance adjusters, examiners, and investigators; financial records processing supervisors; and general office supervisors.

Private houselhold occupations. Only 8 percent of the 1.6 million workers in this group needed specific training to get their jobs, the lowest proportion of any occupation group. A small proportion of the workers in the private household group were launderers, cooks, housekeepers, and butlers. People in these occupations were more likely to need specific training to qualify for their jobs than other workers in this group. Skill improvement training was reported by only 3 percent of all workers in private household occupations.

Service workers, except private household. About 36 percent of the 12.4 million workers in this occupation group needed specific training to qualify for their jobs, a relatively low figure.

People in three occupations, however, reported needing training in much higher proportions than the average: Health service workers, protective service workers, and personal service workers. Health service workers who needed training usually qualified for their jobs through school or informal training on the job. Junior colleges and technical institutes and post-high school vocational programs provided most of the schooling. Formal company programs were the most important source of training for protective service workers, especially police and detectives and firefighters.

Training was very important for obtaining jobs in some personal service occupations. It was necessary for almost all of the hairdressers and barbers, and almost three-fourths of the public transportation attendants. Schools were the most important source of job preparation for hairdressers and barbers, particularly postsecondary vocational schools and junior colleges and technical institutes. Public transportation attendants learned the skills needed to qualify for their jobs mostly in formal company programs.

A lower than average proportion of all service workers had trained to improve their job skills. In some health service and protective service occupations, however, the percentage of workers with additional training was well above average.

Farming, forestry, and fishing occupations. About 28 percent of the 3.1 million people in this group needed specific training to qualify for their jobs, about half of the average for all workers. Only one source of training--friends and relatives--was mentioned more often than average, and it was identified much more often. Skill improvement training was also relatively low for this group.

Precision production, craft, and repair occupations. Qualifying training was necessary for 65 percent of the 11.7 million people employed in this diverse occupational group, somewhat greater than the average for all workers. All sources of training except school exceeded the average for all workers.

Training was very important for some mechanics and repairers. About nine-tenths of the data processing equipment repairers and the office machine repairers needed it to qualify for their jobs. Among the building trades, it was most important for electricians and plumbers. Training also was a requirement for relatively large proportions of tool-and-die makers, machinists, upholsterers, and power plant operators. On the other hand, most electrical and electronic equipment assemblers did not need special skills to get their jobs.

OJT was reported more frequently than any other method of learning skills by most workers in the occupational group. Among individual occupations, the proportion of workers who acquired their training informally on the job usually ranged between 30 and 50 percent. This was the predominant method of training for workers in a wide variety of occupations--carpenters, plumbers, upholsterers, office machine repairers, and oil well drillers are a few examples. OJT also was important for supervisory jobs in this group of occupations. On the other hand, formal company programs were the principal method of training for telephone installers and repairers, structural metal workers, power plant operators, telephone line installers and repairers, and miscellaneous electrical and electronics equipment repairers. Public and private post-high school vocational programs provided training for only about 4 percent of all workers in the occupational group, but junior college and technical institutes were sources of training for about one-fourth of the data processing equipment repairers and one-fifth of the office machine repairers. Many workers in these occupations also were trained in public and private post-high school vocational programs. High school vocational programs were significant sources of training for tool-and-die makers and automobile mechanics. The Armed Forces were the primary source of training for aircraft engine mechanics. Dressmakers were most likely to learn their job skills from friends or relatives or from experience not related to work.

These workers trained to improve their skills in about the same proportion as the average for all occupations. Formal company programs were reported by relatively large proportions of data processing equipment repairers, telephone line installers and repairers, and telephone line installers and repairers. Informal OJT was more important in other occupations.

Machine operators, assemblers, and inspectors. Almost 37 percent of the 7.4 million workers in this occupational group needed specific training to qualify for their jobs, a lower proportion than the average for all workers. Workers in the machine operator, assembler, and inspector group were about as likely as all workers to acquire their jobs as a result of OJT or learning skills from friends and relatives, but were likely to obtain their jobs because of other training.

For those who needed training, OJT was the principal method of acquiring qualifying skills in every occupation in the group. In most cases, about one-fifth to two-fifths of the workers in each occupation reported that they obtained their skills through OJT. The proportion was somewhat higher among typesetters and compositors, photographic processing machine operators, and winding and twisting machine operators; and lower for graders and sorters, sawing machine operators, and packaging and filling machine operators. High school vocational programs were a source of training for about one-fifth of the typesetters and compositors and one-seventh of the printing machine operators. Postsecondary vocational schools and junior colleges and technical institutes trained small proportions of lathe and turning machine operators fand welders. Formal company and school programs frequently were sources of qualifying skills for the same occupations.

Skill improvement training was reported by 22 percent of all workers in the machine operator, assembler, and inspector group. OJT was by far the most significant source of skill improvement training, with 16 percent of the workers in the group, compared to formal company programs with 4 percent and school with 3 percent. Little variation from this pattern was evident among detailed occupations.

Transportation and material moving occupations. Training requirements for the 4 million workers in this occupational group were similar to those for workers in the machine operator, assembler, and inspector group discussed above. Most who needed training acquired it informally on the job. Formal training methods were generally of secondary importance, but almost one-third of the bus drivers did mention such programs.

Relatively few of the workers in transportation and material moving occupations had trained to improve their job skills; but, again, formal company training programs were reported by a relatively large proportion of the bus drivers.

Handlers, equipment cleaners, helpers, and laborers. Only 16 percent of the 3.7 million workers in this occupation group had to have specific training to get their jobs; among the occupational groups, only private household workers required less preparation. About 13 percent of the workers in the group learned their skills informally on the job. Other methods of training generally were insignificant. OJT was the only significant means of skill improvement for this group.
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Author:Carey, Max; Eck, Alan
Publication:Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Date:Dec 22, 1984
Words:4013
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