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Millions of displaced U.S. workers and the likely restructuring of industries -- including retail, travel, hospitality and more -- have increased urgency to improve workforce training in this country, according to new research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Task Force on the Future of Work.

Three new research briefs from the MIT task force explore the fragmented U.S. workforce training system for low- to moderate-skilled workers, as well as comparable programs in Europe, where the private sector is significantly involved in both pedagogy and the workplace. The briefs also describe lessons from learning science and new technologies that could help make online education and workforce training more effective.

For example, one brief features results from a nationally representative survey of 3,673 working adults. The survey, conducted in January, found that half of respondents received training from their employers in the previous year, while roughly 20 percent undertook some form of training on their own during the same period.

"Whether these rates are satisfactory is an open question, but what is not acceptable is that there are large racial, ethnic and educational differentials in access to both forms of training," wrote Paul Osterman, a professor of human resources and management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a member of the Future of Work task force.

The brief describes creative and successful skill-training initiatives, including programs at community colleges. It concludes with a call for an effective public employment and training system.

"We have argued that if we want to move past isolated examples of best practice and address labor market challenges at both the national and regional levels, it is necessary to achieve a compact among employers, communities and governments to build a real system," Osterman wrote. "The good news is that we understand many of the elements of such a system and we also have a firm grasp on what we need to learn. Hopefully, the striking juncture in which we find ourselves -- a job market crisis and a renewed awakening to racial and ethnic disparities -- will provide the impetus to move forward on building such a compact."