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August 1993, Vol. 116, No. 8
Training among young adults: who, what kind, and for how long?
Jonathan R. Veum
Changes in productivity are often attributed to investment in education and training. Consequently, improvements in the quality of the American work force through enhanced education and training are often deemed necessary for the United States to compete in the global market. Training received by young men and women is particularly important, given that those in their early years in the labor market tend to make numerous job changes. On average, during their first 10 years in the labor force, individuals work for approximately eight employers.1 Because changes in the structure of the economy appear to have increased the demand for highly skilled workers, training may play an important role in enhancing the skills, productivity, and wages of young adults.2
Research into the acquisition of training and the time spent in training programs is extremely limited, basically because there is a lack of comprehensive data on actual investment in training. Collecting data on training is complicated by the fact that training is in many ways a difficult concept to measure and quantify, as workers can receive training informally through methods such as observing coworkers, learning by doing, and speaking with supervisors.
Most previous research on training has focused primarily on government training programs and training received from the current employer.3 For the most part, the data used in these studies provide only crude measures of the incidence and duration of training, and the samples used are often not nationally representative.
This article presents information on the acquisition of training, using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. These data describe a sample of young men and women who were between the ages of 14 and 22 in 1979 and who have been interviewed annually since that year. In 1991, the sample, which includes an overrepresentation of blacks and Hispanics, had 9,018 respondents. In all computations, weights are used to adjust for different sampling rates and nonresponse rates, so that the data are nationally representative of the age cohort.4
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1 See Work and Family: Jobs Held and Weeks Worked by Young Adults, Report 827 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, August 1992).
2 For an examination of the increase in demand for skilled workers, see Lawrence F. Katz and Kevin M. Murphy, "Changes in Relative Wages, 1963-1987: Supply and Demand Factors," Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 107, No.1,1992,pp.35-78.
3 See summaries of the literature by Burt S. Bamow, "The Impact Of CETA Programs on Earnings," Journal of Human Resources, Vol. 22, No. 2, 1987, pp. 157-93; and Charles Brown, "Empirical Evidence on Private Sector Training," in Investing in People, Vol. I (Washington, Commission on Workforce Quality and Labor Market Efficiency, 1989).
4 The sample is restricted to those interviewed in 1991, and the 1991 sample weight is used.
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