* Improving America's work skills is a necessary foundation if the nation is to build high-wage jobs and make its standard of living rise again, many economists agree. Employers now spend $30 billion a year on formal training, estimates the American Society For Training and Development - but most of this spending occurs in 0.5 percent of the nation's businesses. And with job changes increasingly frequent for many workers, employer-provided training alone is not seen as sufficient. President Bush and Gov . Bill Clinton have each put forward plans to expand current government programs, while Ross Perot has said little about the issue. BUSH

Would give $3,000 "skill grant vouchers" to displaced workers to help them prepare for new jobs. The plan includes universal coverage of dislocated workers and would triple federal funding - an extra $10 billion spread over five years.

Has submitted a plan to Congress to streamline federal job-training programs for disadvantaged youths and displaced workers. "Private-industry councils" would tie these programs to the needs of local businesses and create "one-stop shopping" for people seeking training.

Would expand youth- apprenticeship programs. Would establish a Youth Training Corps to give intensive vocational training to disadvantaged young people. Calls Clinton's job-training plan a "new tax" on business. CLINTON

Would require that every business with more than 50 employees spend 1.5 percent of its sales revenue on job training for all workers. (Many formal training programs are now targeted at managerial and technical staff.) Noncompliant businesses would pay the same amount to the government.

The plan would help overcome a key disincentive to training: employers' concern that an investment in training would be lost if other companies hired the newly trained workers instead of providing their own training. Worked to develop youth-apprenticeship programs in Arkansas, and wants to expand such programs nationwide. PEROT

Has no formal proposals on job training. Says new jobs and better jobs will come from an economic environment in which small businesses are allowed to thrive, aided by low capital-gains taxes and easier access to credit.

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