How workers get their training Essay

Knowledge of how workers in different occupations train to qualifyfor their jobs and improve their skills is useful to counselors whoassist clients with the career decision process. It also is helpful toeducational institutions, government agencies, and employers in planningeducation and training programs.

For these reasons, the various sourcesof training for many different occupations are identified in the Bureauof Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook and other careerliterature. However, precise information on training has rarely beenavailable. For example, postsecondary schools and the Armed Forces areknown to train electrical and electronics technicians, but exact data onthe proportion of employed technicians who have this kind of traininghave not been available. To learn more about occupational training, the Bureau of LaborStatistics, under a contract with the Employment and TrainingAdministration of the U.S. Department of Labor, has analyzed datacollected by the Census Bureau in a supplement to the January 1983Current Population Survey.

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The supplement was developed around twobasic questions: “Did you need specific skills or training toobtain your current job?” and “Since you obtained your presentjob, did youtake any training to improve your skills?” In each case, peoplewho responded “yes” were asked to identify the source orsources of the training and provide additional information. Manyworkers identified more than one source of training. Individuals didnot identify the most important source of training, so the resultssimply indicate the frequency of a response. About 55 percent of all workers employed in January 1983 indicatedthat they needed specific training to qualify for their current job. Andabout one-third of all workers had taken skill improvement trainingafter obtaining their current job. Many workers had both qualifyingtraining and training to improve their skills; about 72 percent of thosewho needed training to obtain their jobs subsequently trained to improvetheir skills. Among major occupational groups, the proportion of workers whoreported needing training to get their jobs varied widely.

Inprofessional specialty occupations, 93 percent of the workers neededtraining, compared to only 8 percent of the workers in private householdoccupations. With regard to skill improvement, the proportion who tooktraining ranged from 61 percent in professional specialty occupations to3 percent in private household occupations. The kind of training takenalso varied widely, with more than one kind being indicated for eachoccupation. These and all other statistics from the survey should be regardedas indicators of general magnitude rather than precise measures forseveral reasons. In some cases, for example, people may have reportedtheir occupation or the training required incorrectly.

Indeed, smallpercentages of workers in occupations that obviously have stricteducational requirements, such as dentist and physician, reported noneed for training to get their jobs. Furthermore, because theinformation was obtained from the workers, it represents what theybelieve is the training required rather than what employers state is thetraining required for the job. Sources of Training School and informal on-the-job training (OJT) were the most commonsources of both qualifying and additional training. About 29 percent ofall workers obtained qualifying training in school and 28 percentobtained it on the job.

OJT was used to improve skills by 14 percent ofall workers; school programs, by 12 percent. Almost the same proportionof workers (10 and 11 percent) used training from formal companyprograms to qualify for jobs and to improve skills. Relatively few workers acquired either qualifying or skillimprovement training from other sources, such as correspondence courses,the Armed Forces, or friends and relatives. The sources of training forthe major occupational groups are shown in tables 1 and 2. Themulti-page table, “How Workers Were Trained”, shows sources oftraining for detailed occupations. Instances in which particularsources of training were frequently mentioned for specific occupationsare noted in the following discussion.

College programs that lasted 4 years or longer provided qualifyingtraining to more workers than all other school categories combined.About 16.1 million people or 17 percent of all workers reported trainingfrom college programs. Strikingly, just five occupations accounted forone-fourth of the total: Elementary school teacher, secondary schoolteacher, registered nurse, lawyer, and physician. Only twooccupations–elementary school teacher and secondary schoolteacher–accounted for more than one-fourth of the workers who improvedtheir skills by attending college programs that lasted 4 years orlonger. Junior colleges and technical institutes were major providers ofqualifying training for workers in many health occupations, includinginhalation therapists, dental hygienists, radiologic technicians, andlicensed practical nurses. Many police and detectives, firefighters,and real estate sales workers improved their job skills through coursesin junior colleges and technical institutes.

These schools also were amore important source of skill improvement for secretaries than otherschools. Only 2.2 percent of all workers used training from privatepost-high school vocational programs to get their jobs; the proportionwho used training from public post-high school programs was evensmaller–1.6 percent. Nevertheless, these schools were significant forsome occupations.

Almost one-half of the hairdressers andcosmetologists and almost one-third of the barbers qualified for theirjobs through private vocational programs, and about one-fourth of thelicensed practical nurses qualified through public vocational programs. Although only about 5 percent of all workers qualified for theirjobs with training from high school vocational programs, these programswere a very important source of training for workers in administrativesupport occupations, including clerical. About 35 percent of thesecretaries obtained their jobs with skills from such programs. Thistraining was also important for typists, stenographers, bookkeepers,personnel clerks, drafters, automobile mechanics, and compositors andtypesetters. By far the most important source of qualifying training other thanschool was OJT, which was mentioned even more often than school as a waythat skills were improved.

It was used to gain qualifying skills by 50to 60 percent of the workers in such diverse occupations as legalassistant, actor, upholsterer, and editor and reporter. Formal company training programs such as apprenticeship training orother types of training having an instructor and a planned program werementioned by only 11 percent of all workers. However, these trainingprograms were reported by large proportions of police and detectives,insurance sales workers, real estate sales workers, telephone installersand repairers, electricians, bus drivers, and plumbers as the source oftheir qualifying training. These programs were also an important sourceof skill improvement training for workers in many of these occupations,as well as for computer systems analysts, electrical and electronicengineers, registered nurses, and public administrators and officials.The programs tended to be of short duration. About one-half of thequalifying programs and almost three-fourths of the skill improvementprograms reported by workers lasted under 12 weeks; less than one-fourthof the qualifying programs and less than one-tenth of the skillimprovement programs lasted 53 weeks or more. About 3.

2 million people or 3 percent of all workers got their jobsbecause of informal training from a friend or relative or otherexperience unrelated to work. Almost one-third of all workers whoreported this category of training were in precision production, craft,and repair jobs. A relatively high proportion of workers in some largeoccupations, such as farmer, carpenter, and automobile mechanic, learnedtheir skills in this way. Military service provided training to gain job qualifying skillsfor only 1.9 million people or 2 percent of all workers; however, almsotone-third of the workers who used this training were in the precisionproduction, craft, and repair groups.

Training in the military serviceswas most important for aircraft engine mechanics–about 45 percent ofthese workers got their jobs as a result of skills learned in theservice. The Armed Forces also were a source of skills for more than 20percent of the data processing equipment repairers and the electronicrepairers of commercial and industrial equipment. Correspondence courses were the least significant method of jobtraining, but they were reported by more than 12 percent of theelectronic repairers of commercial and industrial equipment. Occupational Patterns The following discussion presents highlights of the results of thesurvey for major occupational groups. The table, “How Workers WereTrained,” provides information for detailed occupations.

Executive, administrative, and managerial occupations. Specifictraining was a prerequisite for the jobs of 71 percent of the 10.8million workers in the executive, administrative, and managerial group.Generally, people in this group were more likely than those in otheroccupational groups to report more than one way of qualifying for theirjobs, which seems reasonable since many of these positions require abroad background of education and work experience. Schools were asource of needed skills for 43 percent of all workers in the group,informal on-the-job training (OJT) for 39 percent, and formal companytraining programs for 12 percent. College programs that lasted 4 years or longer were the principalsource of schooling for almost all managerial occupations.

Theseprograms were reported by 34 percent of the workers in the group.Although an even larger percentage of the workers in the group hadcompleted 4 or more years of college, those with degrees who did not saythat college was necessary may have attributed their jobs to experienceinstead of education because advancement to many managerial positionsrequires years of work experience. In some occupations, collegeprograms were much more important than the average. Three-fourths ofthe education administrators and two-thirds of the accountants andauditors indicated that they received needed job training in theseprograms, 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 thenumber reporting school were fairly close, each category usuallyrepresenting about two-fifths to three-fifths of total employment in theoccupation. OJT, however, was more important for constructioninspectors, business and promotion agents, purchasing agents, buyers,and managers, not elsewhere classified. Some workers in all managerialoccupations had received formal company training.

About one-fourth ofthe protective service administrators and the inspectors and complianceofficers (except construction) qualified for the jobs through trainingin formal company programs. Professional specialty occupations. About 93 percent of the 12.7million workers in these occupations indicated that they needed somekind of training to qualify for their jobs, the largest proportion ofany occupation group. Almost 82 percent of the workers in theprofessional group learned the necessary skills in school, compared toonly 29 percent of the workers in all occupations.

OJT was a source ofrequired skills for 22 percent of the professional group, which wassomewhat lower than the average for all workers. The proportion ofprofessionals trained by other methods was about average. About 70 percent of all workers in the professional group reportedthey 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 havea high degree of specialized and theoretical knowledge, such asphysicians, lawyers, psychologists, school teachers, and biological andlife scientists. College generally was less important in fields thatrequire artistic talent and creative ability, such as photography,design, acting, and music. Junior colleges and technical instituteswere reported by only 7 percent of all professional workers, but theseschools accounted for almost one-half of the inhalation therapists andalmost one-third of the registered nurses. Other methods of schoolingwere reported by relatively few professional workers.

Except for OJT, nonacademic training was not importatn for most ofthese workers. OJT was a source of qualifying skills for more thanone-half of the actors, economists, and editors and reporters, andalmost one-half of the photographers, public relations specialists,mechanical engineers, and computer systems analysts and scientists. Inseveral of these occupations, the number of workers who reported OJT wasnearly equal to those who reported schooling; and it was mentioned morefrequently than college programs by photographers, actors, and publicrelations workers. Formal company training programs provided qualifyingskills to almost one-third of the operations and systems researchers andanalysts. About 61 percent of the workers in professional specialtyoccupations had trained to improve their job skills, the largestproportion of any occupation group. More than one-half of theelementary school teachers and secondary school teachers improved theirjob skills in college programs; they represented almost one-half of allprofessional specialty workers who reported improving job skills inthese programs.

Technician and related occupations. Specific training wasnecessary for the jobs of almost 85 percent of the 3 million workers inthe technician group. About 58 percent of the technicians qualifiedfor their jobs in schools, which was almost twice the average for allworkers and second only to the professional group. Technicians also weremore 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 trainingfor 24 percent of the workers in the technician group and programs injunior colleges and technical institutes, for 20 percent. Post-highschool vocational programs in public and private schools were reportedby about 6 percent of the technicians; on the other hand, only 5 percentobtained needed training in high school vocational programs. College programs lasting 4 years or longer were the primary sourceof school training for many workers in the technician and relatedoccupation group–dental hygienists, computer programmers, biologicaltechnicians, and airplane pilots are some examples.

Junior colleges andtechnical institutes were the princiapl types of school for radiologictechnicians, licensed practical nurses, and electrical and electronicstechnicians. OJT was more important than schooling as a source ofqualifying training only for legal assistances, but it was reported byrelatively large numbers of computer programmers, drafters, andelectrical and electronics technicians. Electrical and electronicstechnicians also mentioned Armed Forces training in larger than usualnumbers. Skill improvement training was reported by 52 percent of theworkers in these occupations. School programs–mostly in juniorcolleges and technical institutes and 4-year colleges–formal companytraining programs, and OJT were each reported as sources of skillimprovement by about 20 percent of the workers.

The formal companyprograms were most important for the computer programmers, chemicaltechnicians, and electrical and electronics technicians. Sales occupations. About 43 percent of the 11.2 million salesworkers needed specific training to qualify for their jobs, which wassomewhat below the average. The proportion using each method was aboutthe same as the average, except that only 15 percent of the salesworkers acquired training for their jobs in school, compared to 29percent of all workers.

Training was mos important for people who sold complex services orproducts. Specific skills were necessary for more than three-fourths ofthe sales engineers and workers who sold real estate, insurance, andsecurities and financial services. Training usually was less important for employment in retail sales,but requirements varied in different jobs. Only two-fifths of theworkers who sold apparel and shoes needed specific training to get theirjobs, for example, compared to about four-fifths of those who sold motorvehicles and boats. Administrative support occupations, including clerical.

In thisoccupational group, 57 percent of the 16.1 million workers neededspecific training to qualify for their jobs, slightly more than theaverage for all workers. Requirements varied greatly for individualoccupations within the administrative support group; only 1 out of 8messengers 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 percentof the workers were school trained.

High school vocational programs inparticular were mentioned much more often by these workers than byothers. Over one-third of the secretaries and typists prepared fortheir jobs in such programs, as well as relatively large numbers ofstenographers, personnel clerks, billing clerks, and bookkeepers,accounting, and auditing clerks. More than one-fourth of the transportation and ticket agents neededtraining in formal company programs to obtain their jobs, compared toonly 10 percent of all workers.

These programs also were important fortelephone operators, computer operators, order clerks, and generaloffice supervisors. Skill improvement training was reported by 32 percent of theworkers in the administrative support group, which is about the same asthe average for all occupations. More than one-half of the workers inthe following occupations had trained to improve their skills;Production coordinators; transportation ticket and reservation agents;insurance adjusters, examiners, and investigators; financial recordsprocessing supervisors; and general office supervisors.

Private houselhold occupations. Only 8 percent of the 1.6 millionworkers in this group needed specific training to get their jobs, thelowest proportion of any occupation group. A small proportion of theworkers in the private household group were launderers, cooks,housekeepers, and butlers. People in these occupations were more likelyto need specific training to qualify for their jobs than other workersin this group.

Skill improvement training was reported by only 3percent of all workers in private household occupations. Service workers, except private household. About 36 percent of the12.4 million workers in this occupation group needed specific trainingto qualify for their jobs, a relatively low figure. People in three occupations, however, reported needing training inmuch higher proportions than the average: Health service workers,protective service workers, and personal service workers. Healthservice workers who needed training usually qualified for their jobsthrough school or informal training on the job. Junior colleges andtechnical institutes and post-high school vocational programs providedmost of the schooling.

Formal company programs were the most importantsource of training for protective service workers, especially police anddetectives and firefighters. Training was very important for obtaining jobs in some personalservice occupations. It was necessary for almost all of thehairdressers and barbers, and almost three-fourths of the publictransportation attendants. Schools were the most important source ofjob preparation for hairdressers and barbers, particularly postsecondaryvocational schools and junior colleges and technical institutes. Publictransportation attendants learned the skills needed to qualify for theirjobs mostly in formal company programs. A lower than average proportion of all service workers had trainedto improve their job skills.

In some health service and protectiveservice occupations, however, the percentage of workers with additionaltraining was well above average. Farming, forestry, and fishing occupations. About 28 percent ofthe 3.

1 million people in this group needed specific training to qualifyfor their jobs, about half of the average for all workers. Only onesource of training–friends and relatives–was mentioned more often thanaverage, and it was identified much more often. Skill improvementtraining was also relatively low for this group.

Precision production, craft, and repair occupations. Qualifyingtraining was necessary for 65 percent of the 11.7 million peopleemployed in this diverse occupational group, somewhat greater than theaverage for all workers. All sources of training except school exceededthe average for all workers. Training was very important for some mechanics and repairers. Aboutnine-tenths of the data processing equipment repairers and the officemachine repairers needed it to qualify for their jobs.

Among thebuilding trades, it was most important for electricians and plumbers.Training also was a requirement for relatively large proportions oftool-and-die makers, machinists, upholsterers, and power plantoperators. On the other hand, most electrical and electronic equipmentassemblers did not need special skills to get their jobs. OJT was reported more frequently than any other method of learningskills by most workers in the occupational group. Among individualoccupations, the proportion of workers who acquired their traininginformally on the job usually ranged between 30 and 50 percent.

This wasthe predominant method of training for workers in a wide variety ofoccupations–carpenters, plumbers, upholsterers, office machinerepairers, and oil well drillers are a few examples. OJT also wasimportant for supervisory jobs in this group of occupations. On theother hand, formal company programs were the principal method oftraining for telephone installers and repairers, structural metalworkers, power plant operators, telephone line installers and repairers,and miscellaneous electrical and electronics equipment repairers.Public and private post-high school vocational programs providedtraining for only about 4 percent of all workers in the occupationalgroup, but junior college and technical institutes were sources oftraining for about one-fourth of the data processing equipment repairersand one-fifth of the office machine repairers.

Many workers in theseoccupations also were trained in public and private post-high schoolvocational programs. High school vocational programs were significantsources of training for tool-and-die makers and automobile mechanics.The Armed Forces were the primary source of training for aircraft enginemechanics. Dressmakers were most likely to learn their job skills fromfriends or relatives or from experience not related to work. These workers trained to improve their skills in about the sameproportion as the average for all occupations. Formal company programswere reported by relatively large proportions of data processingequipment repairers, telephone line installers and repairers, andtelephone line installers and repairers. Informal OJT was moreimportant in other occupations.

Machine operators, assemblers, and inspectors. Almost 37 percentof the 7.4 million workers in this occupational group needed specifictraining to qualify for their jobs, a lower proportion than the averagefor all workers. Workers in the machine operator, assembler, andinspector group were about as likely as all workers to acquire theirjobs 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 ofacquiring qualifying skills in every occupation in the group. In mostcases, about one-fifth to two-fifths of the workers in each occupationreported that they obtained their skills through OJT.

The proportion wassomewhat higher among typesetters and compositors, photographicprocessing machine operators, and winding and twisting machineoperators; and lower for graders and sorters, sawing machine operators,and packaging and filling machine operators. High school vocationalprograms were a source of training for about one-fifth of thetypesetters and compositors and one-seventh of the printing machineoperators. Postsecondary vocational schools and junior colleges andtechnical institutes trained small proportions of lathe and turningmachine operators fand welders.

Formal company and school programsfrequently were sources of qualifying skills for the same occupations. Skill improvement training was reported by 22 percent of allworkers in the machine operator, assembler, and inspector group. OJT wasby far the most significant source of skill improvement training, with16 percent of the workers in the group, compared to formal companyprograms with 4 percent and school with 3 percent. Little variation fromthis pattern was evident among detailed occupations.

Transportation and material moving occupations. Trainingrequirements for the 4 million workers in this occupational group weresimilar to those for workers in the machine operator, assembler, andinspector group discussed above. Most who needed training acquired itinformally on the job.

Formal training methods were generally ofsecondary importance, but almost one-third of the bus drivers didmention such programs. Relatively few of the workers in transportation and material movingoccupations had trained to improve their job skills; but, again, formalcompany training programs were reported by a relatively large proportionof the bus drivers. Handlers, equipment cleaners, helpers, and laborers. Only 16percent of the 3.7 million workers in this occupation group had to havespecific training to get their jobs; among the occupational groups, onlyprivate household workers required less preparation.

About 13 percent ofthe workers in the group learned their skills informally on the job.Other methods of training generally were insignificant. OJT was theonly significant means of skill improvement for this group.


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