Do Minnesota businesses really need training incentives?

old training shop

I’m intrigued by Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s mention in the Rochester Post-Bulletin of a proposal for feds to work with businesses on what I assume will be training programs:

I’m working right now to develop federal legislation that would, among other things, build on the success in Alexandria (Technical and Community College) by providing incentives for small and mid-sized manufacturers to work with their local technical and community colleges.

It seems to be a crucial issue: employers’ calls for technical colleges to help out with the mismatch between unfilled jobs and job candidates with the wrong skills. I’ve written about it a number of times.

Yet I’m nagged by an issue or two.

First, this New York Times article suggests that some companies are taking advantage of the government, expecting it to pay for training that companies should be paying for themselves. It’s the usual companies-try-to-privatize-the-profits-but-socialize-the-costs argument.

Second, this Bloomberg article echoes a number of others in suggesting that incentives don’t necessarily help that much. (In the Bloomberg case, it says they do little for job creation.)

Having read those, the basic argument one could raise is this:

If companies have so much business that they need to create a particular job (or in this case, training program) to keep up, they’ll find it financially worthwhile and create it themselves. If not, then it’s not a job or program worth keeping.

And as one Minnesota executive essentially told me last May: Apprenticeships and worker-training programs are great, but it’s tough to say what kind of commitment employers would show to such programs if the economy went sour and they needed to cut jobs.

So are incentives really long-term solutions? And if they’re just short-term solutions, would they be worth the cost?

Ultimately, if training and forming college connections were truly necessary, wouldn’t businesses already recognize them as worthwhile investments?

No answers or opinions here. Just questions. I’m looking forward to seeing what proposal Klobuchar and her colleagues come up with.

Side note: Congrats to Alex Tech President Kevin Kopischke for being invited by Klobuchar to attend the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C.