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Hard to say where company-sponsored training is headed

Dear J.T. & Dale: I keep hearing about the national skills gap in America, but I don’t see any companies offering training programs or apprenticeships. Why is that? – Tanner

DALE: That certainly feels true, but some checking revealed this: The last Bureau of Labor Statistics report to cover apprenticeships (2016) counted 500,000 apprentices in 21,000 registered programs, covering plumbing, carpentry, musical instrument repair and many others. However, while 500k sounds like a lot of people, that’s in a workforce of about 160 million, so apprentices are just one in 320 workers. As for other corporate training, there’s an annual survey by Training magazine. Looking at the last three reports, one was up, one was down and one was flat.

J.T.: Those numbers surprise me, because in the industries where my clients work, it seems that over the past two decades the number of formal training and apprenticeship programs has died. And that makes sense. Why? Because job seekers are job jumping at a rate of every two years. So executives aren’t keen on investing in training employees who they’ll probably watch go someplace else. Instead, companies are spending the money on perks and incentives that make it hard for an employee to quit and go elsewhere. But I do expect to see a rise in training and development now that millennials are dominating the workforce. Their desire to keep learning and growing makes offering it as a benefit again more attractive.

DALE: Then again, like everything else in this economy, the future will look different from the past. Corporations want to focus on their “core competencies,” their actual businesses. So many outsource training, and that gets a lot easier as it moves online. Further, why should companies provide training when colleges are becoming training academies? Not only can you hire an MBA that has learned what used to be in a corporation’s management training program, but you can hire one educated just for you. For instance, you can get an MBA specialized in online marketing or auto dealership management. Meanwhile, in another part of the economy, there are trade schools that will train, say, auto mechanics, with curricula that the manufacturers helped design. Instead of paying a trainee, you let a student pay (often with debt) to learn what you want them to know. Welcome to the New Economy, where you enter upside down.

Dear J.T. & Dale: I work in a small office. I’m getting married this summer. The invitations have already been sent. We just hired a new gal in our office. She is lovely, but I don’t feel right inviting her to our wedding. However, the entire rest of the office (17 people) have been invited and are coming. What should I do? – Faye

J.T.: I think you have to think about life after your wedding. Do you want to be known as the person in the office that excluded the new girl? How will it be for everyone when they feel bad talking about how great a time they had at your wedding as the new girl stands there? Sometimes you have to do things for the value they’ll provide at a later date. You invited the entire company because they feel like family; let her know you are hoping she’ll become one of you!

DALE: Hold on. Let’s face it: The new employee probably doesn’t want to go to a wedding full of people she barely knows, and she doesn’t want to buy you a toaster, either. So just go to her and tell her about the wedding and that you’d be happy to have her come but don’t want her to feel obligated. If she says she’d love to come, then she’s in. Nothing you can do. But I suspect she’ll tell you how sweet you are to think of her and find a way to demur. Then, when the office conversation turns to the wedding, she can say how you asked her to come but that she couldn’t make it. Everybody is happy, and you have one less toaster to return.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab. Please visit them at, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2019 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.