The politics of skill building in a global age
Author(s)McCaffrey, Sara Jane
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.
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National skills systems have historically imposed significant constraints on production strategies. This dissertation investigates the impact of the home economy skill base on firms' off-shoring and out-sourcing decisions, asking: how are globalization pressures mediated and shaped by politically constructed institutions? Chapters One and Two review the literatures on 'varieties of capitalism' and national skill profiles, examining the relationship between skills and production strategies in the US (general skills and Fordism), Germany (industry-specific skills and diversified quality production) and Italy (tacit skills and industrial district production). Despite considerable differences, politicians and business leaders in all three countries have embraced remarkably similar skill-building rhetoric. The dissertation then examines globalization as a de-stabilizing agent for skill-building systems, focusing on the textiles and apparel industries. Chapter Three argues that domestic education and training institutions in the United States facilitated offshoring, and that upgrades in management skills were rarely accompanied by more robustly skilled workers on the production floor. Chapter Four argues that recent changes in Italian industry structure attempted to ensure a steady supply of a vital input -workers with lots of tacit skill - but an over-reliance on tacit knowledge could ultimately undermine competitiveness in the industry. Chapter Five finds that Germany's edge in production, rooted on strong, industry-based skills institutions , gave firms a clear advantage in the period of intense globalization. But given recent transfer of skills from German firms to Central European suppliers, how enduring Germany's skills advantage will be remains unclear. Chapter Six examines the impact of new, global technologies on national skill-building systems, looking at the advent of information technology skill certifications. Despite important national variations in adoption, IT skill certificates came to define skill sets at the international level, underscoring the importance of a new set of global, often for profit actors in previously domestic arena of training and education. Chapter Seven concludes with a discussion of the skills workers and employers need to be competitive in the global economy, arguing that reform of formal education institutions may be necessary but insufficient. Policy makers and employers would do well to focus more attention on fostering tacit skills.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Political Science, 2009.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (p. 352-380).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Political Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology