Important Information About Using Training Data

  • To some extent, types of training and training providers are respondent-defined. Universes for the various sets of training and provider variables differ and there is not always a clear distinction between types of training or types of providers or services. The wording of some questions, for example, combines more specific on-the-job training with general work experience. Similarly, the training category "on-the-job training" can be a type of vocational/technical program, a service provided in conjunction with either a government job or a government training program, or a type of training for a military job.
  • For a full picture of government-sponsored jobs and associated training variables available for the NLSY79 refer to the "On Jobs" section of the 1979-87 questionnaires; the accompanying Employer Supplements, which collected information on all jobs held by the respondent (including but not limited to government-sponsored jobs); and the 1979-86 "Government Training" sections, which asked those respondents not enrolled in school for information on other government training programs in which they had been enrolled and which were not already reported within the "On Jobs" section. 
  • The sources of Federal funding and types of service providers reported by participants did not always keep pace with legislative reality. Participation in defunct Federal programs was reported as late as 1985 for MDTA and 1986 for CETA. Although JTPA funding of local programs occurred as early as 1983-84, JTPA as a category in the government-sponsor questions is presumably included under 'Other' and appears as a coding category within the 'Part of CETA/JTPA or WIN' questions beginning in 1986. Finally, although Federally funded, these jobs programs were locally operated under a variety of names; appropriate Federal funding sources may or may not have been known to the recipient.
  • The wording of questions on job placement within the Employer Supplements and the "Government Training" sections of the questionnaires changed beginning with the 1984 survey. Prior to 1984, a question on whether the government training program in which the respondent had participated had placed the respondent in a job "outside" the program was followed by a question on whether that outside job placement had occurred to a CETA or PSE (Public Service Employment) job and, if so, whether that subsidized job had been followed by another (presumably) unsubsidized job placement.  Beginning with the 1984 survey and the enactment of JTPA, this rather complex series of questions was dropped and only two questions were asked:
    • whether respondents had been placed, as part of their training, in a subsidized on-the-job training (OJT) or work experience slot and
    • whether respondents had been placed in a job by the program after completion of training.

Information has been collected during all survey years on the type of organization providing the training in which NLSY79 respondents participated. In addition to regularly fielded general training questions, special data collections focused on:

  • government training administered in the early years of the NLSY79
  • high school courses
  • degrees and certifications
  • and time use provide supplementary information on NLSY79 respondents' training investments

In general, the "Training" or "Other Training" sections of each NLSY79 questionnaire:

  1. collect information on each respondent's participation since the date of the last interview in three (or more) training programs
  2. confirm and update information on two (or more) training programs in which he or she was enrolled on the date of last interview

Provider types for which data have been consistently gathered across survey years include company training, business school, vocational/technical institute, and apprenticeship program. Questions fielded during select survey years specified other training providers such as nurses program, barber/beauty school, flight school, seminars or training programs at work/outside of work, and vocational rehabilitation center. The names of identical and additional agencies can be found in the:

  • 1979-87 government training and jobs programs questions
  • 1979 degrees and certifications data collection
  • 1980 time use in "other training" series

Data on government training was collected from 1979 through the mid-1980s for NLSY79 respondents. The primary concern of NLSY79 questions was whether jobs held by the respondent had been obtained through a program funded by the government. The survey also explored whether training and supportive services had been provided. In general, information was gathered on:

  • enrollment patterns
  • program sponsorship
  • types of training
  • supportive services
  • job placement services provided

Related Variables: The Educational Attainment & School Enrollment and School & Transcript Surveys sections of this guide review some additional and related variables.

Core Data Collection

For each program, a core set of variables is collected on the type of provider offering the training, start and stop dates (month and year), whether the training was completed, and the number of hours per week usually spent in each training program. Variables include:

  • 'Any Vocational/Technical Training Enrolled'1
  • 'Attended Vocational/Technical Program or On-the-Job Training'
  • 'Type of School or Vocational/Technical Program Enrolled In'
  • 'Month/Year Began'
  • 'Month/Year Completed/Left'
  • 'Completed Vocational/Technical Program Enrolled In'
  • 'Hours Per Week Spent at Vocational/Technical Program Taken'

1 Note that the 1979-86 data collections asked only about training programs in which the respondent had been enrolled for more than one month.

Year-by-Year Variations. During the 1979-86 surveys, the focus of the NLSY79 training data collection was on the types of formal training programs in which a respondent was enrolled other than those already reported in the previously administered jobs, government training, military, and regular schooling sections of the questionnaire. After 1987, the series of questions concerning government-sponsored training was no longer fielded and the "Other Training" section was renamed "Training." The types of information collected for all years of the survey differ and are discussed below (Table 1.)

Table 1. Year-by-Year Variations in Training Data Collection

Year(s)         Training data collected
Beginning in 1979
  • Included a series of questions (1979 and 1980) on the types of degrees or certifications that the respondent had ever received or received since the last interview. Age restrictions during the interviews limited the administration of these other training questions to respondents who were 16 years of age and older.
  • Data collection (1979-1986) during the interviews was limited to only those training programs in which the respondent had been enrolled for one month or more. Specific information on the occupation for which the respondent was being trained was also gathered in these years. In addition to the core sets of variables described above, the 1979 questionnaire included the following sets of questions: 
    • retrospective questions on up to three training programs in which the respondent had participated before 1978 and on up to four other types of training in which he or she had ever participated and
    • information on the activities of the respondent during the summer of 1978, such as that he or she worked at a regular job or an odd job, was on vacation, participated in a training program, or was enrolled in regular school.

    The "Government Training" sections collected three sets of information.
    First: Asked those respondents not enrolled in school for information on other government training programs in which they had been enrolled and which were not already reported within the "On Jobs" section.
    Second: Retrospective information on up to five government-sponsored training programs in which respondents were enrolled prior to January 1, 1978, was collected during the 1979 survey. Included are the name of the government program (such as MDTA/CETA/JTPA, Job Corps, RTP Apprenticeship Program, Opportunities Industrialization Centers, Jobs for Progress, Urban League, Vocational Rehabilitation), the 3-digit Census occupational training category, whether the respondent completed the training program, and in what year the respondent left the program.
    Third: Information on up to two government-sponsored training programs in which a respondent was enrolled since 1978 or since the last interview was collected during the 1979-86 interviews. This series of questions was restricted during the 1979-83 interviews to respondents who were not enrolled in regular schooling (grades 1-12). Included is information on the name of the government program; the date participation ended; hours per week/per day of participation; current enrollment status; periods of nonparticipation lasting a week or more; whether the program was part of a CETA, JTPA, or WIN-affiliated program; reasons for entering/leaving each program; types of training services provided (job counseling, GED preparation, classroom training, English as a second language, skills training, and so forth.); Census occupational or OJT training category; type of subsidized (OJT, work experience, or CETA/PSE) or unsubsidized job placement; types of supportive services received (childcare, transportation, health care, college preparation, and so forth); income/rate of pay received during participation; and attitudes toward specific aspects of the training program.

  • The "On Jobs" section questionnaires (1979-1987), in conjunction with the yearly Employer Supplement, collected detailed information on all jobs reported by the respondent since January 1978 (for the 1979 survey) or since the last interview (for subsequent surveys).  For each job identified as a government job, information was gathered from the respondent on the names of the government-operated job programs, whether the program was part of a CETA/JTPA or WIN program, the reason the respondent entered this program, the kinds of services provided (job counseling, GED preparation, on-the-job training [OJT], classroom training for basic skills [reading-writing-arithmetic], or occupational skills training), whether the respondent had been placed in either subsidized or unsubsidized employment, the types of supportive services such as childcare or health care provided, and the respondent's attitudes toward the program. The 1979 questionnaire contained a supplementary section, which collected information on whether respondents age 16 and over had participated in a government-sponsored, in-school, or summer jobs program prior to January 1978. 
Beginning in 1982 Questionnaires (1982-1984) included an expanded series detailing:

  • the firm specificity of each training program, that is, whether a respondent had enrolled in a given occupational training in order to qualify for a specific job at a specific firm
  • the involvement, if any, of the respondent's employer in encouraging or requiring the training and whether the training took place during regular work hours
  • the source of money to pay for the training, such as employer, self, friends, government, or bank, with a distinction made between outright grants and loans
  • the relationship to the respondent of those persons who encouraged enrollment in the training, such as friend, relative, employer (former or prospective), job counselor, or teacher
  • the primary reason the respondent enrolled in the specific occupational training program, for example, jobs are plentiful, pay is high, program sounded interesting, or (the training) related to the job at the time
1987 Respondents reported whether any training or assistance had been received from any government-sponsored program.
Beginning in 1988
  • Government sponsorship of a training program (1988-1992) was incorporated within the regularly asked "Other Training" questions beginning in 1988. All respondents continued to be asked for information on multiple training programs in which they were enrolled since the last interview. Questions differentiated between where respondents received their training (such as through an apprenticeship program, a business school, a vocational institute or vocational rehabilitation center) and who or what organization paid for the training program (such as self, employer, JTPA, TAA, Job Corps, WIN, the Veteran's Administration, Vocational Rehabilitation, and so forth). Information was collected for each training program on dates of participation, total weeks enrolled, whether the respondent completed the program, whether the training was used on their most current job or helped the respondent obtain a different job, hours/week spent in training, and type of training program (occupational skills training, classroom training for basic skills, on-the-job training, job search assistance, or work experience).
  • The series dropped the one-month training duration limitation, the question that specified the job or occupation for which the respondent was being trained, and some of the provider types, such as barber/beauty school, flight school, and nurses program, that had been coding categories since 1979. The 1988 reference period was the last two years; other surveys referred to only the period since last interview.
  • Company training programs run by the employer were differentiated from those conducted at the work place by someone other than the employer and those that took place outside of work. The number of training programs for which data were released was expanded to four. New questions included who paid for or sponsored each training program, whether the training was used on the respondent's current/most recent job, whether the training resulted in the respondent getting a different job, and the type of training that had been provided, such as skilled classroom training, basic/remedial skill training, on-the-job training, or work experience. 
  • Definitions of each training type and of some of the providers offering such training, drawn from the 1991 NLSY79 Question by Question Specifications, are listed in Table 2
Beginning in 1990 Two questions (1990-1994) were added on the relationship of each training program to the respondent's promotion possibilities, that is, was the training necessary to get a promotion and did it assist the respondent in obtaining a promotion. Information was collected beginning in 1991 on the primary reason the respondent enrolled in the training program (this question had been taken out after 1984 but was returned to the survey in 1991), the specific employer who sponsored the training, and whether a guaranteed student loan was used to pay for the training.
1993 The 1993 series of training questions included the collection of information on:

  • up to six training programs in which the respondent was enrolled since last interview
  • up to four in which he or she was participating as of the last interview date. 

For those respondents who were enrolled at either point in time in a training program sponsored by an employer, a new question elicited information on whether the respondent had to be working for that employer for a period of time before training was made available. Those enrolled in any training program were asked a series of:

  • skill transferability questions, that is, the amount of skills learned in each training program that the respondent thought would be useful in doing a different kind of work for the (same) employer or in doing the same kind of work for a different employer
  • high school course relevancy questions, that is, whether the skills learned in this training program added to those acquired in high school courses in which the respondent had enrolled and, for those who did not take such high school courses, how much of what was learned in the training program could have been learned in high school

In addition to this expanded set of questions on formal training experiences of NLSY79 respondents, the 1993 survey collected, for the first time, information on informal training opportunities. Those respondents with a current (or most recent) civilian job were asked a series of questions designed to tap the methods used to either learn their job or to upgrade skills required on that job. Those respondents with a CPS employer who had implemented workplace changes in the past 12 months that necessitated the learning of new job skills were asked for information on:

  • the type(s) of changes, such as a new product, service, or equipment was introduced; an upgrade of employee's basic skills or computer skills was needed; employer policies regarding safety, compensation, or benefits were changed
  • whether the training was acquired from (not already reported) classes/seminars, supervisors, coworkers, self-study, or some other means reported by the respondent
  • for each training mode, the number of weeks and hours per week spent in such training and the degree to which respondents thought skills learned in each program would be useful in doing a different kind of work for the (same) employer or in doing the same kind of work for a different employer

Respondents with a CPS employer who reported that they were not able to perform 100 percent of their current job duties at the time they first started doing the job were asked the same set of training and skill transferability questions listed above. Loewenstein and Spletzer (1994) review training questions in the 1993 NLSY79 and other data sets, including the 1991 CPS, the 1986 NLS of the High School Class of '72, and the Employment Opportunity Pilot Project, and present some initial findings from the 1993 NLSY79.

Table 2. Definitions of Training and Training Providers: Definitions from the NLSY79 Question-by-Question Specifications. (1991)

Apprenticeship Program: A formal program in which a person agrees to work in return for wages and training in a skilled trade or art for a prescribed period of time.
Business School: Is not to be confused with business classes in college or graduate school. It does not contribute to an undergraduate or professional degree.
Classroom Training - Basic Skill: Includes academic instruction in a classroom setting leading to specific certification for a GED or academic instruction in basic education such as English or math. See description of GED below.
Classroom Training - Job Skill: Includes vocational instruction in a classroom setting, designed to teach work tasks of a particular job group, such as auto mechanics, health services, or clerical training.
Correspondence Course: Training courses offered through the mail.
General Educational Development Test (GED): A certificate that is equivalent to a high school diploma obtained as a result of taking the General Educational Development Test. The test provides a valid means of measuring the educational proficiency of individuals taking the test in comparison with high school graduates.
On-the-Job Training: Includes institutional instruction in a work setting intended to enable an individual to learn a skill or qualify for a particular occupation through demonstration and practice.
Vocational Rehabilitation Center: Facility offering specialized training to prepare disabled persons to enter or re-enter the work force.
Vocational Technical Institute: For example, a beauty school, auto mechanics training, or welder's school.
Work Experience: Includes short-term or part-time work with employing agency to enhance employment ability of an individual through development of good work habits and basic work skills.