Ken Bone Knows!

Patrick Weir
14 posts

The Internet has fallen in love with Ken Bone and his red sweater. But setting the great memes aside, we shouldn’t forget that fact that Ken Bone asked a really important question: “What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job layoffs?”

Scores of academics and policy wonks have grappled with this question, but for Ken Bone and the millions of American workers just like him, it’s vital that we discuss job training and the role it plays in our future, not just as it applies to the energy sector, but to the economy as a whole.

The Fastest Growing Jobs Don’t Necessarily Align With 4-year Degrees

Ken Bone might be pleased to learn that one so-called green job, wind turbine service technician, is the fastest growing career in the U.S., according to the most recent Bureau of Labor statistics. But while wind turbine technician tops the list of the 20 fastest growing careers, it’s actually the only green job on a list that’s heavily dominated by healthcare occupations like physical therapy assistant and home health aid. Nevertheless, wind turbine technician, like the majority of the 20 fastest growing jobs, doesn’t require a four-year degree, which raises the question: who will train the next generation of American workers?

Scan a recent Business Insider list of the 35 highest-paying jobs you can get without a bachelor’s degree and you’ll see that the responsibility for training these professionals falls primarily on associate degree programs and, increasingly, employers. In fact, U.S. companies spent $70.6 billion dollars on training last year, an increase of 14 percent, according to Training Magazine’s annual survey of more than 700 employers.

Training Must Measure the ROI of Training Programs

The conventional wisdom holds that there are a number of good reasons why it’s important for companies to train workers, whether that training goes to compliance, beefing up specific skills, or teaching the ins and outs of a job from A to Z. But as more training dollars flow into the private sector, we’ll see an increased demand for accountability. Simply put, it’s not enough to say your employees are your number one asset and then sign them up for a training program. Instead, employers need to measure the ROI of training programs.

Hands down, the most important element of ROI for any training program is whether or not learners demonstrate competency. An energy company, for example, can put its wind turbine technicians through a robust training program, but if the sole measure of success is completing the course, there’s no proof whatsoever that the learner has mastered the material to the extent necessary to perform their job in the field. The lesson: we can train our workforce to meet the challenges of the future, but we owe it to people like Ken Bone to make certain that training is meaningful. And for that, we’ll need to be able to effectively measure the ROI of training programs.