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Federal policymakers should draw on the experience of foreign nations as well as state and local governments in devising strategies to upgrade the skills of the existing workforce and to prepare students for the world of work, two new reports conclude.

The nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute released its reports on workforce preparation this month at a Capitol Hill briefing.

One document, called "Strategies for Workplace Training: Lessons From Abroad,'' notes that, in many nations with successful school-to-work transition policies, there exists a "high degree of coordination and cooperation'' among unions, employers, governments, schools, and other training institutions'' to produce viable workers. No such effort occurs in the United States, it states.

It suggests that such a cooperative approach be fostered here to help create a national standard of certification for workplace skills. Furthermore, it argues that the same groups could work to develop "skill standards'' for individual industries.

It also argues for an expansion of apprenticeship programs to areas other than the manufacturing sector as well as for additional financial support for workers who seek off-the-job training.

The second document, called "A National Policy for Workplace Training: Lessons From State and Local Experiments,'' suggests that the federal government fund a national program aimed at upgrading the skills of what it calls "incumbent workers,'' or those already in the workforce who are undereducated for their jobs.

While efforts have been made at the federal level to improve job-training programs, the report notes, those initiatives largely have been targeted at the disadvantaged and tend to ignore the problems of existing workers.

Numerous small but effective state and local programs that have been developed over the past decade "can provide the basis for thinking about restructuring federal policy,'' the report states.

For more information on the reports, write or call the Economic Policy Institute, 1730 Rhode Island Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036; (202) 775-8810.

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