According to an article by Matthew Miller in the Lansing State Journal, despite a lot of money available for unemployed workers to gain new skills, most of them aren’t able to attend school to do so. Laid off workers mostly need retraining to be qualified for the jobs that do and will exist. Except that, even given federal Trade Adjustment Assistance money (aid to workers who lose their jobs as a result of foreign trade), most of them, at least in Michigan, don’t go back to school. According to the article:

The barriers are many: mortgages and family responsibilities, too many remedial classes to take before they can begin earning college credits, the fear of returning to school after so many years away, resentment at having to start over. They are challenges the state’s work force agencies and community colleges, already flooded with the ranks of the unemployed, often aren’t prepared to help them meet, and the few promising programs are still small.

As governor of the state with the highest unemployment rate in the country, Michigan Governor Jennifer Grandholm understands that the state needs to do something about job creation. That’s why she created the (perhaps rather unfortunately named) No Worker Left Behind program to provide money to encourage unemployed people to go back to school.

NWLF provides money to support up to two years worth of free tuition at any Michigan public school or training program. And the jobless in Michigan are going back to community college. But not exactly in record numbers.

In fall 2009, Michigan’s 28 community colleges had 21,766 students ages 50 to 64. That’s less than 4,000 people more that age than enrolled in 2008. In the same period, however, there were 97,000 more unemployed people in that age range. Many just aren’t going back to school.

It looks like the financial responsibilities of having a family are often too serious to take a year off for study. It often looks more cost-effective just to take a lower-paying job. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer