Last week I attended a very interesting talk at the British Academy by a Havard University professor of statistics, who has been looking at evidence of whether training programmes are effective. This is an important question because, with the global economic crisis, some countries are spending a fortune on training people (for example Germany is spending 80 million Euros per year).
After some interesting, and at times deep, statistical analysis, the conclusion was that to be effective training schemes must be designed for, and targeted at, the individuals you wish to train. A one-size-fits-all programme tends to benefit those who would get jobs anyway and it is a waste of time training people without also tackling the obstacles which prevent some people taking up opportunities (such as child care, poor transport infrastructure etc).
To me this conclusion is pure commonsense, but it is nice to have an academic prove that using commonsense is the right approach. But what is worrying is that many training programmes are not structured in this commonsense way. Is this another example of the old adage that the problem with commonsense is that it is not common enough? Or, more worryingly, is something standing in the way of commonsense?