08.20.16

The Retraining Scam

Posted in Census, Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, The Corporate Bund at 2:47 pm by George Smith

In from the Snake Oil for What Ails You Desk: I’m a registered Dem and retraining is the swill the Party’s neoliberal leaders have peddled for the last 20 or so years. Back to school with you.

It’s the only answer the Democratic Party has had for people shed by de-industrialization and the conversion of the economy to financialization. It’s a theme that is one of the central planks in Thomas Frank’s book, Listen, Liberal, on how the Democrats abandoned populism and the working class for wealth and “meritocracy,” a buzzword better described by phrases like winner take all, root hog or die and fuck you if you didn’t go to the right school or have money.

A recent web piece publishes some acerbic bits on the retraining scam:

“Job retraining has proven to be a failure over the last two decades …The record is pretty clear … We’re creating a lot of [false] hope where hope doesn’t exist.”


Peter Navarro, an economics and public policy professor at the University of California, Irvine, called job-retraining programs a “cruel joke” on American workers.

“The problem we have is there’s a fundamental mismatch of skills Americans have [and] opportunities,” he said. “You can retrain these people all you want. But if there are no jobs for them, what’s the point?”

The blog has covered it in the past, often sarcastically:

[Retraining] reforms may quickly clear the way for the jobless to enroll in community college, making courses available to train them for a multiplicity of jobs.

Such jobs will include but not be limited to: test-tube cleaning, shelving and getting reagents, learning to use a Metler balance, mucous, surgical drain and breathing pipe maintenance, teeth scraping, gram-staining, changing oxygen tanks for those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, blood pressure-taking, temperature taking, enema giving, supervision of administration of Fleet’s Phospho-Soda, cleaning up messes in hospitals and clinics, airport security, turnstyle security, public transit security, frisking, pat downs and strip searching, simple detentions, immigration status checking, herding, temporary staffing, manning the metal detectors at court houses, X-ray smock fitting, checking dosimeters, wheelchair-bound patient moving, massage, bed pan emptying, restraining and strapping the old and mentally ill into chairs in various warehousing environments, bed sore monitoring, security work in privately administered prisons, embalming, corpse dressing, using word processor and accounting software, installing anti-virus software, transcribing, bank tellering, cafeteria work, how to wear a sterile smock, simple sterile procedures, transfers and transport of pees and poos in the clinical lab setting, refrigerated organ transport, transport of organs reclaimed from cadavers, preparing cadavers for organ reclamation, selling door to door, telemarketing, on-line promotion and astro-turfing, using Blogger, search engine optimization, building a network with Twitter, repeat calling debt collection, data entry and processing tax returns, using Adobe Acrobat or Photoshop and using Microsoft Powerpoint.

Robert Titman, an expert on the economic impact of continuing education at the City College of Gobble-Wallah in Birmingham, Alabama, predicted that in the next two years the US would see a big economic boom from the new highly educated and skilled workforce. The country would leap to the forefront in retraining the unemployed, providing a leading example for the rest of the world, he said.

Economic recoveries and good outcomes always promised by retraining initiatives haven’t panned out, so to speak.

“Job retraining tends to be popular with politicians … it often amounts to little more than a public relations sop,” it reads.

More seriously, from 2013:

Again, this is about contempt. Contempt for Americans seen in the implication that people aren’t fit to work and cannot read or do arithmetic.

The problem is not, as it appears when shopping Baja Ranch, that people don’t know how to read and do arithmetic. They do! They do fine with cash registers, counting out money, reading stocking lists, preparing foods behind the counter, reading labels, using scales and so on. The problem is being paid too little for a fair day’s work.

In fact, there was no shortage of Americans who tried to get jobs in the 2010 census. Almost all of them, as far as I could tell, had a basic grasp of reading and math.

However, there’s always room for another scam at the bottom. Now that Americans can afford even less, they can have a certification dangled in front them, one that promises a future job, if and when they take some courses and pay to take a test that proves they have reading comprehension and the basic ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide.

From 2011, harshly:

An organization called “Skills for America’s Future, a business and community-college partnership based at the Aspen Institute in Washington and Colorado,” it is said is working to retrain and place Americans.

“Companies it already works with to link students with 21st-century job skills range from Accenture to UPS to Gap Inc,” it continues. (Boldface mine.)

Twenty-first century job skills? To drive UPS delivery?! To be an “outsourcing service” consultant for Accenture? Working in retail [at] young people’s denim mall stores is a 21st century skill for which people need training?

Training on not to steal from the cash register and how to resort all the clothes properly and put them back where they belong after a day of customers rummaging through them?

This is repellent rubbish. It is the stench of rot, of cynically coming to the conclusion that there’s nothing to be done but sell people on the idea that they’re inferior and need even more vocational training for the low wage jobs of the future. Another way of putting it is to piss in a jar and tell people to drink up because it’s lemonade.

And:

In Michigan domestic manufacturing, except for cars and tanks, has disappeared. Electrolux, in Greenville, closed its plant, destroying employment in the town. All the jobs went overseas.

So to re-training camp, Montcalm Community College, to get people ready for the jobs of the future! In this case, solar panel manufacturing.

Problem, the jobs of the future are too few. And American companies still ship the jobs out.

Reports the LA Times:

“Solar panel technology was invented in the United States. So was the key technology for advanced batteries for electric vehicles, for which Michigan is also developing a number of factories.

“But in each case, sales and production are tiny compared with European countries.

“Even if clean technologies were to bloom, it’s not clear that they would produce large numbers of new jobs.”

“[The] U.S. usually has left matters to the private sector, and its multinational companies have moved tens of thousands of jobs overseas,” it reads.

It’s not the training. That is a rationalization.

In fact, a company could train people to do its work as easily, or even more quickly, than a community college. The US guitar and amplifier manufacturing industry didn’t send all its jobs to China because that country has community college training its workers to make rock and roll consumer electronics.

It’s all bullshit. The Los Angeles Times doesn’t state this. However, the story makes clear that re-training camp has a pretty good failure rate.

In 2016 it has become part of the explosive political environment. That it has failed so utterly is also one of the driving forces that has led to the rise of Donald Trump.

A lot of people just don’t believe anything establishment politicians say about the economy, jobs and the future. Furthermore, rage results when you hear still more of it.


And I covered that, in storytelling, quite ably:


Over the years, the retraining and community college scam — it’s a lot.

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