Among employers, 86 percent say they have never taken part in a government or publicly funded training program, with half of those saying they were not aware of programs aimed at their business sector. And 40 percent said they weren't aware of government programs in their area, the surveys showed.
Most employers say their low-wage workers have the necessary skills to perform their jobs now but were not prepared when first hired. These employers are investing in training programs to get workers up to speed, but only about half are confident they can keep these investments going in the future to keep worker skills current.
For some low-wage workers, "just the predictability of scheduling or even access to adequate transportation can be barriers in terms of schooling," said Stephanie Luce, professor of labor studies at City University of New York's School of Professional Studies. "They could be barriers to job training as well."
She also questioned whether many of the programs are truly effective in helping get workers promotions or new jobs.
"It seems to me if the training programs at the work sites really were leading to successful upward mobility, workers would be taking them," Luce said.
Only 30 percent of all workers in this income category report ever having received a promotion from their current employer, and few think they have a good chance of getting one.
Nina Troisi, 52, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., was making more than $50,000 a year in banking customer service, but after being laid off, she found work as a resident assistant at an assisted-living facility for patients with dementia. She now makes less than half her previous salary.
"It's a very underpaid job," she said. "You have good days and bad days, but I'm making it."