Article | October 9, 2023

How American Adults Obtain Work Skills: Results of a New National Survey

Employer-provided training is an important determinant of economic outcomes, yet our understanding of its extent and distribution is well out of date—with the most recent national survey being from 2008. This article updates our understanding of employer-provided training through a 2020 nationally representative survey of 3,648 working civilian adults between the ages of 24 and 64. Results show that while employer-provided training is reasonably extensive, considerable disparities occur along the lines of race, ethnicity, and educational attainment. Additionally, the author contributes to the literature by making clear distinctions among types of employment—standard, contract (those employed by a contract company but working onsite at another firm), and freelancer (those with no employer per se). Contract workers receive considerably less employer training than do employees who work under standard arrangements. Findings are robust to a range of job skill measures as well as skill specificity. The author also examines the relationship between employer-provided training and whether people seek out training on their own and shows that the inequalities in access to employer-provided training are accentuated with self-directed training.