Book Reviews and Commentary

The Global Auction

“All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life and his relations with his kind.” -Marx, Engels

The 20th century offered ordinary people the unique opportunity to dream beyond the traditional confines of family and community. These new opportunities were driven by improved job prospects, which over time produced a middle class in the United States and other industrialized nations. This transformation involved workers transitioning from crafts-based occupations, to jobs undertaking routine tasks in a factory.

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Commentary on a Foreign Affairs Article

In his review of “The Power of Market Creation: How Innovation Can Spur Development” by Bryan Mezue, Clayton Christensen, and Derek van Bever, William Johnson describes three types of innovation that drive economic and employment growth: “sustaining innovation,” “efficiency innovation,” and most importantly for achieving transformative growth and prosperity in international development, “market-creating innovation.”  He explains that if decision makers encourage both the public and private sector to support market-creating innovations, new markets will lead to more jobs, resulting in sustained prosperity over the long term.

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A response to “Skills for Employability in Africa and Asia”

In her response to Nicholas Burnett and Shubha Jayaram’s “Skills for Employability in Africa and Asia”, Youth Advisory Board member Michaella Munyuzangabo notes that while extra-curricular activities can be downplayed by teachers, especially in Africa, they can be very important in developing non-cognitive skills for students who will use them in the workplace.   Parents and students, employers, and school officials should rebrand extra-curricular activities, highlighting the role they play in bridging the gap between the training students receive in school and the needs of employers in the workplace.  

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The Good Jobs Strategy

In The Good Jobs Strategy Zeynep Ton explores the question of what makes a company successful. Contrary to popular belief, she argues, a company can adopt a low cost strategy that promotes investments in employees.  

The rule of thumb for many companies has been to drive down wages and operation costs, creating a vicious cycle of disinvestment in search of higher profits. What if the focus shifted from lower costs to smarter investments: creating products that people want to buy, jobs that people want to keep, and eventually shifting the norm for companies worldwide to include livable wages, good benefits and a healthy work environment?

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Snapshot of Trends in USAID Workforce Development Programming

The Workforce Connections inventory is an evolving collaborative learning initiative in support of the project’s objective to generate, synthesize, and disseminate evidence. We examined a USAID-funded portfolio of $1.2 billion of projects awarded since 2008 that involve workforce development.  Based on this review, we present here a preliminary analytical snapshot. 

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Response to Paul Krugman's op-ed "Jobs and Skills and Zombies"

In her response to Paul Krugman’s op-ed “Jobs and Skills and Zombies”, Youth Advisory Board member Kim Ouillette notes that while there is not a national skills shortage that can explain high unemployment in the US, there are some more localized, industry-specific skills gaps that can be addressed through structured training programs. However, she argues, these technical fixes should not preclude other fiscal and political changes that are more likely to get at the root of national unemployment and give more Americans access to decent work.

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Workforce Connections Community of Practice: The Challenge of "Soft Skills" Measurement: Toward a Common Approach

Check out resources from Workforce Connections' Community of Practice launch event! The goal of Workforce Connections is to promote dialogue and knowledge exchange among international youth workforce development professionals.

Our speakers included Luis Crouch from RTI International, Clare Ignatowski, representing the USAID Office of Education, and Child TrendsLaura Lippman and Kristin Anderson Moore. Lara Goldmark, Director of Workforce Connections, FHI 360 and Eric Johnson, Supervisory Education Development Specialist, USAID moderated the event.

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African Union Seeks to Align Efforts around Youth Employment

Africa has the youngest population in the world, with 200 million people ages 15-24. Current trends indicate that figure will double by 2045. Youth Employment is growing in prominence on the agenda of the African Union (AU), a coalition of 54 Member states established to help bring about “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.” 

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Can Character be Taught? Book Review of "How Children Succeed"

The first Workforce Connections book review, by Kiera Derman of FHI 360, assesses the implications of Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed for international youth workforce development.

The Workforce Connections Reading Corner is a place to interact with, discuss, or contribute thought-provoking learning resources for the workforce development community. Content includes book reviews, key technical resources, and dialogues.

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Review of Paul Tough’s "How Children Succeed"

How character is formed has been a topic of interest for a long time, but if we are to guide children and youth towards success in adulthood we need to explore the question, are these traits teachable? In How Children Succeed, Paul Tough determines that qualities also called non-cognitive skills - such as persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence - are the key drivers behind why some children do better than others as adults. More importantly, Tough draws attention to studies that explore this question, and interventions that aim to instill these traits in children and youth. This is especially relevant for children who grow up in poverty or conflict environments that do not necessarily nurture this type of skills development. Although Tough focuses on evidence from the US, he brings to light several areas for further exploration which are highly relevant to international youth workforce development.

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