Another federal job training program is spiraling out of control. The Job Training Partnership Act is squandering billions of dollars, subverting youths’ understanding of the work ethic, and providing contractors with a license to steal. JTPA is also a move-a-factory-a-day program; it encourages businesses to transfer their operations to other areas.
A women’s center in Tarrant County, Texas, collected a 977 percent profit thanks to a JTPA contract. JTPA has spent taxpayers’ money to set up a circus museum, teach cab drivers to smile, and enable a small-town mayor to fly to Japan. The Labor Department’s inspector general found that young JTPA trainees are more than twice as likely to receive food stamps after training.(1)
The Job Training Partnership Act, enacted in 1982 to replace the discredited Comprehensive Employment and Training Act and avoid the CETA boondoggle, was supposed to open a new chapter in federal job training: bringing the genius of the private sector into the government’s efforts to help society’s disadvantaged. The act’s goal was “to establish programs to prepare youth and unskilled adults for entry into the labor force.”(2) Sen. Edward Kennedy proclaimed, “We are offering new hope and opportunity to young people seeking their first job.”(3) Sen. Dan Quayle, widely recognized as the father of JTPA, maintained, “The new legislation will provide standards for judging the program by what is accomplished, by whether those trained are hired or earn more as a result of training.”(4)
JTPA is a federally funded, locally directed program. It is advised—and in many areas, controlled—by Private Industry Councils; at least 51 percent of each PIC’s members are representatives of private businesses. The PICs are the primary difference between JTPA and preceding federal training programs.
A local government or a PIC puts out requests for proposals to offer certain types of training, then evaluates the bids submitted and chooses training providers. JTPA offers job search assistance, classroom training, and on-the-job training subsidies as well as special programs for the young. Local officials attempt to direct recruits to the JTPA programs that best suit their needs.