Workers may need to learn new skills as some jobs — cashier, for example — are increasingly automated. But hurdles like work schedules, child care and finances often mean learning opportunities are out of reach, according to an Aug. 17 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Stakeholders told GAO that barriers to access present a key challenge to upskilling for in-demand jobs. Child care concerns pose a particularly significant barrier, they said. Many parents lack affordable options — or any options, given widespread pandemic-driven closures, it continued.
Similarly, scheduling difficulties keep workers out of development opportunities, GAO said. Many learning options conflict with workers’ current job schedules, or span a long period of time to which individuals cannot commit.
The report also pointed to financial concerns: “Faced with a decision about whether to engage in training that may boost job prospects and earnings long term on the one hand, or work in a job that offers low but immediate pay on the other hand, potential participants may choose the latter,” GAO said. Even worse, unpaid development can exacerbate existing financial hardships because time in training may erode savings a participant might have, it continued.
Workers would benefit from solutions to these issues, GAO told Congress; among other things, individuals could benefit from training that is either paid or occurs outside of work hours and for relatively short periods of time.
While GAO’s report largely focused on state workforce development programs, stakeholders have in recent years called on private-sector employers to partner with other entities on upskilling. Goodwill Southern California, for example, last year partnered with a national nonprofit to train individuals for in-demand jobs.