The BIG question

Meet Rado. Rado is 23 and unemployed. He is however lucky enough to be selected for a special training programme of a local NGO, funded with money of Rado’s government. There are a couple of courses he can enroll himself for. Rado chooses a course which will prepare him for the administrative sector. He is lucky, as he makes it through the selection. The training programme helps to build Rado’s skills and in addition he also receives training on ‘soft skills’. Furthermore the programme  introduces him to job search agencies which connect his profile to companies looking to hire. Three months after his training Rado gets offered a position a decent company called Paperchaser. Rado is very, very happy!

This an example of a rather standard employment training programme, focused on the ‘supply’ of potential workers. There is a lot of debate on how effective such programmes really are in helping Rado to find a job. Some argue the scenario sketched out above is pretty realistic, others are less positive.

It is a debate I will get back to as well in the future, probably till the point that you get very tired of it. However one other question, just as relevant, is often neglected.

Let us assume for a moment that Rado finds a job because of the support programme. But also Bob, his best friend and also a participant in the programme, gets a job offer. And the same goes for Sergio and Harry, Larissa and Rosa. Imagine all participants in the programme find employment. Everybody is so happy!

But what does this mean in the larger context? Was the company Paperchaser going to hire someone anyway? Probably. But in that case are we not merely discussing rotation of jobs instead of job creation?
In other words: What does that mean for Raphael? He is 23 years old, just like Rado. Although he has similar skills he is unemployed. He might have had the job if it was not for the training programme.

In the words of Jennifer Bremer, visiting professor at SAIS-Hopkins, in a comment on a very critical post by Chris Blattman on training programmes:

Training programs that do not lead to jobs are a cruel hoax visited on vulnerable people. Even if some people do get jobs, I would argue that these programs often just reshuffle who gets the few jobs that are out there. This is bad enough, but to the extent that these programs give the appearance of addressing youth unemployment, without actually doing so, they are complicit in governments’ failures to address the real constraints to job creation.

Full article here

And we can make it even more complex: What if Rado grew up in a very challenging environment, raised in a poor single parent household? Does this make if ‘more fair’ for a support programme to intervene?

BIG questions indeed, something I will take a closer look at in the near future as well. In the mean time, if you have any articles or interesting insights related to this please share so I can take them on board. Rado would like to know.

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