In view of the high cost and the often disappointing results achieved by the massive extension of general education in developing countries, this article investigates the extent to which out-of-school education and training courses assist workers in Brazilian industrial centres in obtaining employment. By discriminant analysis, information on the education and training of 149 applicants for industrial jobs in João Pessoa and Salvador is related to the success rate of their applications. It is shown that, while formal school education raises the vocational expectations of the workers in both towns, it does not coincide with a higher probability of securing employment. On the other hand, participation in out-of-school education or training correlates positively with employment opportunities, for different reasons according to the context. In João Pessoa, where industry is only in the early stages of development, programmes which appear to have no direct relation to the hoped-for job seem to be as useful in the search for employment as specific professional training courses. This indicates the economic importance of participation in out-of-school courses. In Salvador, however, which is economically more highly developed, out-of-school vocational training alone appears to have a positive influence on the chances of finding employment. Apparently, decision criteria here are oriented more to consideration of usable skills, as they are in Western countries.