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Marianne Wanamaker, associate professor of economics in the Haslam College of Business and faculty fellow at the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research.

Marianne Wanamaker, associate professor of economics in the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is leading a national effort to determine what data are needed to measure employer-provided training, and she presented her findings Friday at the White House.

Wanamaker sits on the American Workforce Policy and Advisory Board, co-chaired by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump. President Donald Trump on Friday signed two executive orders; one that extends the board’s work through September 2021, and a second that allows the federal government to hire based on skills rather than relying on an educational requirement.

The skills needed in today’s labor market are evolving, so new data are needed in order to train or retrain the labor force to meet the economy’s needs. At the meeting, Wanamaker said the U.S. is currently relying on data extrapolated from surveys conducted in the 1990s.

“America’s labor market is in upheaval, and our current data infrastructure isn’t able to capture the dynamics of worker retraining,” Wanamaker said. “The board presented a plan for fixing this at last week’s meeting, and we reiterated the urgency of the task.”

Short-term goals include expanding surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau or Bureau of Labor Statistics in order to better gauge the training provided to employees. In the long run, Wanamaker said new surveys are needed to comprehensively measure skill-based training investments by firms in their workers. She said these data need to be incorporated into a national infrastructure so the U.S. can see how the training investments paid off.

“The next step is to get the survey designed and deployed,” Wanamaker said. “We are looking forward to a collaborative process with the statistical agencies and some key nonprofits in getting that done.”

Two UT students ⁠— research assistants Wesley Smith and Hancen Sale at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy ⁠— helped Wanamaker create the report.

“This was a team effort,” Wanamaker said. “Wesley and Hancen worked tirelessly to get this white paper written. In the end, we produced a vision for a new statistical survey that will fill a gaping hole in our understanding of the American labor market.”


Erin Hatfield (865-974-6086,