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Training to qualify for jobs and improve skills, 1991.

The number of workers who were trained to improve their job skills rose by 13 million from 1983 to 1991, a recent BLS study shows. This increase reflects both a larger work force and a 69-percent surge in the number of workers who said they attended formal programs through their employers.

This article presents data collected in a supplement to the January 1991 Current Population Survey (CPS) on how workers get trained before they are hired and after they are on the job? The training portion of the supplement centered on two questions: "Did you need specific skills or training to obtain your current (last) job?" and "Since you obtained your present job, did you take any training to improve your skills?" Respondents who answered "yes" were asked to identify how they were trained. If they used schools or formal company programs, further questions addressed the type of program, who paid for it, how long it lasted, and whether they completed their training.

Knowing how much and what kind of training employees need in order to qualify for their jobs can help workers decide how to prepare for a new occupation. Employers can use training information to evaluate their requirements for new employees or the type and amount of training they provide. Training specialists can use it to assess changes in their courses or to target specific groups of employees.

Data from the 1991 supplement are also valuable because some of the questions replicate those asked as a supplement to the January 1983 CPS.(2) The patterns over the 8-year period remained remarkably stable. The principal findings are:

* The proportion of workers who said they took training to improve their job skills jumped from 35 percent in 1983 to 41 percent in 1991. Much of the increase was attributable to greater use of formal company programs.

* In 1991, 57 percent of all workers reported they needed training to qualify for their jobs, compared with 55 percent in 1983.

* The proportions of blacks and Hispanics who said they needed training to qualify for their jobs were more than 10 percentage points below the proportions for whites and other races.

Training to qualify for jobs

Almost 65.3 million people, or 57 percent of those employed in January 1991, said they needed specific training to get their jobs. While many more people reported they needed training than in January 1983, the proportion of total employment they represented increased by only 2 percentage points. This pattern--larger numbers but little difference in the proponions-also emerges in the more derailed data about worker characteristics. (See table 1 .)

Twenty-six percent of 16- to 19-year-old employees said they needed training to get their jobs in 1991. This proportion increased steadily with age, peaking at 63 percent for workers aged 35 to 44. Because they have had less time in the labor market, younger workers may still be exploring job options and are less likely to have acquired any training.

Starting at age 55, the proportion of employees who said they needed training to get their jobs declined shaply, reaching 44 percent for those aged 65 and over. One explanation for the decline holds that older workers started their jobs years earlier and may not recall their need for training; also, the jobs may have required less training then or, as these workers prepare to retire, they want jobs that require little or no training.

At 56 percent, women needed training to qualify for their jobs about as often as men (57 percent). Fifty-eight percent of whites and of "all other races" such as Asians and American Indians--said they needed training while a smaller proportion of blacks (47 percent) and Hispanics3 (41 percent) reported they needed this training.

The more education workers have, the more they reported the need for specific training to get their jobs. Engineers or teachers, for example, must obtain specialized academic credentials, and are more likely to use this training in their jobs. More than two-fifths of workers with high school or less education reported they needed specific training, but this proportion increased to more than three-fifths for workers with some college training and significantly more than four-fifths for workers who had finished college.

The 53 percent of employees in private industry who reported they needed training to get their jobs was the smallest of the classes of workers, even though they made up by far the largest group.(4) This is because a relatively large number of employees in private industry work in occupations such as handlers, equipment cleaners, and laborers--occupations which require the fewest skills and the least training. With 1 of 3 government employees working in professional occupations generally requiring formal training (compared with 1 in 10 wage and salary workers in private industry), they were most likely to say they needed training to get their jobs. About threequarters of State and local government workers, two-thirds of Federal Government workers, and three-fifths of the self-employed said they needed training. (See table 1 .)

The number of workers who said they needed training to get their jobs ranged from 92 percent in professional specialty occupations to only 10 percent among private household workers. Other occupations that required training for a relatively large number of workers were technician and .related support occupations (86 percent), and executive, administrative, and managerial occupations (72 percent).

Sixty-two percent of workers in precision production, craft, and repair, and 55 percent of those in administrative support occupations said they had to have training to get their jobs--about the same as the 57-percent average for all occupations. The percentage of workers who said they needed training in the remaining seven occupations was lower than the average, ranging from 43 percent of salesworkers to 10 percent of private household workers.

Sources. Workers most frequently got training to qualify for their jobs in school (33 percent) and through informal on-the-job training (27 percent). (On-the-job training--or orr---could have been acquired in a previous job within the same organization or for a different employer.) Formal company programs, the third largest type, were mentioned by 12 percent of employees. (See table 1.) Seven percent obtained training from a friend or a relative or other experience unrelated to works; 2 percent from the Armed Forces; and 1 percent from correspondence courses.

The need for training obtained in school increases with age until the 35-to44 age group because younger workers often attend college or trade schools while they hold a job, although they may pursue subjects unrelated to those jobs. This training qualifies young, inexperienced workers for more responsible positions relatively early in their careers; as they age, cumulative experience and job-related training become more significant.

After their mid-40's, the percent of workers who needed any type of training to get their jobs declined, except for correspondence courses and "other" sources. Workers who used school, formal company programs, on-the-job training, and the Armed Forces are probably involved in the traditional job ladder through their early firties. But after older workers have retired, they often reenter the job market and begin pursuing interests and applying skills they developed outside previous jobs. A new career after retirement could explain the upturn in correspondence and other types of training as a source of qualifying training for workers aged 65 and over.

Similar proportions of men and women needed training to qualify for their current jobs, but greater differences occurred across the sources of training. Relatively more women used school, and relatively more men used other methods.

Whites, blacks, and other races all reported they were most frequently trained for their jobs in school, but relatively fewer blacks identified school as their training ground. For on-the-job and other types of training, the racial mix of workers was more proportionate.

The more schooling workers have, the more likely they will work in jobs that require training, and the more likely their schoolwork qualified them for those jobs. Apart from school, however, it appears that workers with some college education used other sources of training in higher proportions than either college graduates or less educated workers. Perhaps workers who have attended college--but did not complete a 4-year degree--can find better jobs or were better prepared for their current jobs by supplementing their academic training.

Private industry, government, and self-employed workers most frequently attended school to prepare for their jobs. The second most popular way to qualify for jobs was on-the-job training across all sectors. But State and local government workers identified school almost twice as often as on-the-job training, while the other groups said they used the two methods with almost equal frequency.

Workers in professional specialty occupations most frequently reported that they were trained in school (83 percent). Employees in technician and related support occupations (63 percent), executive, administrative, and managerial occupations (49 percent), and administrative support occupations (32 percent) also reported schoolwork more frequently than other types of training. On-the-job training was the most frequent way workers were trained for other types of jobs. (See table 1 .) If school was the most popular method for an occupational group, on-the-job training was usually second, and vice versa.

Training to improve job skills

Acquiring skills to qualify for jobs is one aspect of training; another is improving job skills. In January 1991, 46.8 million workers reported taking tiffs additional training to improve their jobs skills. (See table 2.)

The proportion of all workers taking skill improvement training increased 6 percentage points between 1983 and 1991--from 35 percent to 41 percent, a much larger increase than in the the proportions of those who needed training to qualify for their jobs. Most of the increase results from greater use of formal company training programs, which replaced on-the-job training as the most frequently used way workers were trained to improve their job skills.

Workers 35 to 64 years old took more training than other workers and increased their use of skill improvement training the most since 1983. Workers in these age groups tend to stay with the 'same employer longer and are most likely to provide the greatest return to a company investing in their skills. The percentage grew for each age group, peaking at 48 percent for workers between ages 35 and 44, then fell for each older group of workers to a low of 25 percent for employees aged 65 and older.

About 40 percent of men and women reported taking training; they also showed almost equal increases since 1983. Although workers in each racial and ethnic group received relatively more training for their jobs than in 1983, whites continued to report the highest proportion (42 percent), followed by all other races (38 percent), then blacks (34 percent), and Hispanics (28 percent).

College-educated workers obtained a disproportionately high share of training to improve their skills, accounting for 37 percent of the training but only 25 percent of employment. Some workers with college educations--such as engineers, teachers, and doctors--must take additional training each year to stay abreast of new developments in their fields, or even to keep theft licenses, certificates, or association memberships. Workers with high school or less education received only 38 percent of skill training, while accounting for 53 percent of total employment. Employers may have less incentive to encourage these workers to take training because their immediate jobs do not require it. And workers may not recognize the benefits of training (such as better-paying or more satisfying jobs), or may not be able to afford the training on their own.

While the proportion of workers taking skill improvement training has increased since 1983 for all workers, the rate increased as they acquired additional education. The proportion of college graduates taking skill improvement training increased 7 percentage points to 61 percent, while the proportion with a high school education increased only 3 percentage points to 29 percent. (See table 2.)

Government workers--who were most likely to say they needed training to qualify for their jobs--were also most likely to say they had taken training to improve skills for their jobs. The percentages for Federal, State, and local government workers were each about 60 percent. While government employees accounted for 16 percent of all workers, they took 24 percent of the training. A much smaller proportion, 37 percent, of private industry workers reported taking skill improvement training. They made up almost three-quarters of the survey respondents, but accounted for only about two-thirds of the number who took training to improve their skills. Relatively few self-employed workers said they took skill improvement training-- 34 percent. Workers in all sectors were more likely to have taken training to improve their skills in 1991 than in 1983.

The percentage of respondents who said they took training for their jobs ranged from 6 percent among private household workers to 67 percent among professional specialty workers. Physicians, engineers, and other technical specialists must keep developing their skills and knowledge or face obsolescence. A high percentage of workers in technician and related support occupations (59 percent) and executive, administrative, and managerial occupations (53 percent) also received training to improve their skills. The proportions of workers in all other occupational groups acquiring this training did not exceed the 41-percent average for all employees. While all occupational groups showed an increase in the percentage who used training to improve their skills since 1983, above-average increases occurred among the managerial, professional, technician, and administrative support, and transportation and material moving occupational groups.

Sources. Unlike training to qualify for a job--where school and informal on-the-job training were clearly most common--employees who were trained in order to improve their job skills reported they used formal company programs (16 percent), informal on-the-job training (15 percent), and school (14 percent) with almost equal frequency. Only 7 percent reported they tried to improve their job skills by using "other" training methods.

The proportion of workers taking skill improvement training from any source increased with age until the 35-to-44 age group, declined slightly in the 45-to-54 age group, and then dropped off sharply for workers older than 54. This increasing-decreasing pattern by age groups is shown in all sources of skill improvement training.

A similar proportion of men and women obtained training to improve their skills, but the source of training differed. Relatively more women used school, while men were more likely to participate in formal company programs. This discrepancy implies that women more frequently look outside the workplace to improve their job skills.

Among racial groups, relatively more whites used three of the four training sources--school programs, on-the-job training, and "other" sources--and tied with all other races for the highest participating in formal company training. Informal on-the-job training was the most frequent form of training received by blacks and Hispanics to improve job skills.

Just as more educated workers are most likely to have been trained for their jobs in school, they are also most likely to use school to improve their skills. (See table 2.)

While workers in private industry took on-the-job training and formal company training at about the same rate, Federal Government employees used formal company training most frequently (37 percent) and local government workers used school most often (33 percent). Almost equal numbers of State Government employees (about 22 percent) went to school, used formal company programs, or were trained on the job. Almost equal proportions of the self-employed identified school and "other" methods (13 percent) of training to improve job skills.

Although formal company programs and on-the-job training were the most common types of training used among all workers, workers in some occupational groups participated in other types. At 34 percent, school was identified by the largest proportion of the professional specialty occupation group. While not as frequent as formal company training, school was cited with about the same frequency as on-the-job training for executive, administrative, and managerial occupations, and technician and related support occupations. School, on-the-job training, and "other" methods were used almost equally in farming, forestry, and fishing occupations. (See table 2.)

Changes in sources. The rapid expansion in formal company training programs accounted for 40 percent of the increase between 1983 and 1991 in the number of workers who said they were trained for work. The increase in the number of workers taking training in school programs, on-the-job training and through "other" sources were all similar, between 3.5 and 4 million, but training in formal company programs increased by 7.3 million to 18.0 million--a numerical increase almost twice the size of any other category.

The length of these formal company programs also was noticeably longer in 1991 compared with 1983. While 72 percent of the company programs in 1983 lasted under 12 weeks, only 34 percent were that short in 1991. The most dramatic growth was reported for programs lasting 13 to 15 weeks.

Type of training. Workers who reported taking skill improvement training were also asked, "What kind of training did you take?" The answers were divided into five categoriesi (1) managerial or supervisory skills, (2) reading, writing, and math skills, (3) computer-related skills, (4) occupation-specific technical skills, and (5) other skills.6 Table 3 presents the responses to this question.

For all occupational groups except administrative support and private household, occupation-specific technical training was the primary form of training for improving skills. This training ranges from numerical-controlled lathe operation for a machinist to financial statement analysis for an accountant to sales-closure for an industrial sales representative. Administrative support workers most often worked on improving computer skills.

Training in managerial and supervisory skills was the secondary focus of executives, administrators, and managers and workers in sales occupations; farming, forestry, and fishing occupations; and precision production, craft, and repair occupations. Computer'related training was the secondary focus of professional specialty occupations; technicians and related support occupations; and machine operators, assemblers, and inspectors. The secondary training focus of administrative support occupations was occupation-specific technical skills. "Other" skills were the secondary training focus of service workers, except private household; transportation and material moving occupations; and handlers, equipment operators, and laborers.

Footnotes

1 A more extensive presentation of the results will appear in How Workers Get Their Training: A 1991 Update, Bulletin 2407 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, forthcoming). Data from the January 1983 Current Population Survey are presented in How Workers Get Their Training, Bulletin 2226 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 1985).

2 The Current Population Survey is a household survey conducted each month by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Trained interviewers collect information about individuals from a sample of about 60,000 households to obtain comprehensive data on the labor force, the employed, and the unemployed, including such characteristics as age, sex, race, occupation, and industry of employment. A detailed description of the survey appears in Concepts and Methods Used in Labor Force Statistics Derived from the Current Population Survey, Report 463 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1976).

3 Hispanic is an ethnic rather than a racial category; Hispanics may be of any race.

4 Workers are classified as (1) wage and salary workers in private industry, (2) wage and salary workers in Federal, State, or local government, or (3) self-employed. Wage and salary workers obtain income in the form of wages, salaries, and commissions from employers, while the selfemployed work for fees or profits in their own businesses.

Other class of worker categories are unpaid family workers, and unemployed with no previous work experience on which to base a classification. The former were excluded because their number is small and they receive no compensation for any training they may have acquired. The latter are not part of the employed universe being examined.

5 Examples of "other" include private lessons, reading professional journals, hobbies, and attending seminars or conventions.

6 This information was not collected in the supplement to the January 1983 Current Population Survey.

Thomas Amirault is an economist in the Office of Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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Author:Amirault, Thomas
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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