Low-wage workers have dim view of future, survey shows

  • Article by: SAM HANANEL and JENNIFER AGIESTA , Associated Press
  • Updated: March 22, 2013 - 5:08 PM

Many are unaware of or apathetic about training.

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Low-wage workers may not even know that their employers offer training or opportunities to advance into management.

Photo: Tony Gutierrez • Associated Press file ,

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– As they struggle to get ahead, many low-wage workers are not taking advantage of job training or educational programs that could help them make the leap to better-paying jobs. They are often skeptical about whether such programs are worth the trouble, a new survey shows.

Some workers don’t even know the training programs exist, the two-part AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey of both workers and employers found.

Two-thirds of employers said they offer coaching or mentoring programs and 61 percent provide on-the-job training. But only 36 percent of low-wage workers reported that their employers offer such programs.

While 83 percent of employers said job training is extremely or very important for upward mobility, only half of low-wage workers felt as strongly about additional training.

Similarly, 77 percent of employers rated education as extremely or very important, while only 41 percent of low-wage workers rated it similarly.

Of those who were aware their employers offer such training programs, 64 percent report participating in them, the surveys found. About a quarter have taken advantage of tuition assistance benefits. Yet workers who have used these programs say they are no more likely to feel confident about their prospects for advancement than those who have not received the extra training.

The AP-NORC Center conducted two surveys to gauge the experiences and perspectives of lower-wage workers. A sample of 1,606 workers earning $35,000 or less annually were interviewed last summer, while a companion poll of 1,487 employers of such workers was conducted from November through January.

About 65 percent of the jobs the U.S. economy added since the recession ended in June 2009 were lower-wage ones, according to an analysis of monthly Labor Department employment numbers by Moody’s Economics.

Low-wage workers are even less apt to use government programs that could help them get new training or find better jobs, according to the survey. Only 18 percent have used Pell grants, a student aid program, and less than 10 percent say they have used any other government-funded program, such as one-stop employment centers or welfare-funded training services.

Most employers say their low-wage workers have the necessary skills to perform their jobs now but were not prepared when first hired. These employers are investing in training programs to get workers up to speed, but only about half are confident they can keep these investments going in the future to keep worker skills current.

The surveys revealed widespread pessimism among low-wage workers, many of whom view their jobs as a dead end. A majority among employers [81 percent] and workers [78 percent] place most of the responsibility for career advancement on the individual worker. But 73 percent of workers and 78 percent of employers say that employers share at least a moderate amount of the obligation to help workers find better jobs.

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