Patrick Madden


Job Training and D.C. Unemployment By Race

WAMU 88.5′s Patrick Madden has been reporting on the ineffectiveness of past D.C. job training practices and changes the city is making to how it prepares residents for jobs. His investigation revealed that much of job training money went to training people to be bus drivers and Metro train operators. But such training programs haven’t resulted in graduates getting jobs.

The debate over job training has particular relevance for D.C.’s black and Hispanic communities. This chart shows 2010 D.C. unemployment rates by race, with the numbers coming courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics [PDF]:

D.C. Unemployment By Race (2010)


DCentric has previously explored the causes behind D.C.’s unemployment disparities. One major reason is the mismatch between the skills people have and those required by District jobs. For instance, unemployment is at 25 percent in Ward 8, where more than 20 percent of residents lack a high school diploma. Without effective job training, can that unemployment number go down by very much?

The Problem with Job Training in the District

Mike Bitzenhofer / Flickr

Unemployment in D.C. varies. In some parts of the District it’s 3 percent, while in others its 25 percent. The explanation to such high and uneven unemployment is complex, but one central reason is the majority of the available jobs in the District require skills and education that many of the unemployed lack. Job training is seen as a logical solution to this “skills gap.”

But job training programs have to be done right. WAMU 88.5′s Patrick Madden reports on problems with the District’s job training contracts. In one instance, the city was paying double per trainee than what nearby states paid. In another, the District gave a job training school $500,000 to train 70 people. The school, which is no longer running, is now embroiled in legal troubles; a private consulting firm has accused the school’s owner of misusing funds.

Such questionable contracts not only raise concerns over how the city uses its money, but also over the effectiveness of its job training system. DCentric has written about individuals who had trouble finding work after completing such job training programs.

Job training programs can be effective for some people, but such programs alone can’t reduce overarching unemployment disparities. For instance, 10 percent of D.C. residents have criminal records. For those individuals, no amount of job training can erase the challenge of getting hired with a past conviction.

You can listen to Madden’s full report here.