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- Author or Editor: Michael J. Camasso x
Introduction Often celebrated as the ‘richest country in the world’, the US generates wealth through various means, the most prominent engine of this economic growth being innovation. From condensed milk to suspension bridges, Americans have been active inventors in either filling a niche or addressing a need. Many world rankings on entrepreneurial capacity, inclination, and behavior put Americans in the forefront, and there is little debate that Americans ‘play for keeps’, with high propensity for risk and even higher expectations of rewards.
Automation and computerization in the labor market have the increased potential for displacing many of today’s youth from traditional jobs. The American response to this has been one of energizing youth to engage in small business start-ups and other entrepreneurial activities. While entrepreneurship is considered as an eminently reasonable pathway to solving the youth unemployment problem in the US, given its deep-seated, cultural proclivity for taking risks, can this approach work in other cultures/countries where risk taking is not so readily built into their culture?
This chapter will describe the work ethos of Americans, how this ethos manifests itself in the demand and supply sides of the labor market, and the extent to which the US has pursued an ‘entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment’ model. We also explore the feasibility of exporting this model to the Mediterranean countries that exhibit substantial problems with youth employment.
Legendary works by Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville speak quite eloquently to American economic and political individualism.
Its main purpose seems to have been to select and train for the most important jobs in the country. The criteria of selection have predominantly been the talent for abstraction, the ability to simplify complex problems while leaving room for their complexities, and an overall knowledge of French history, philosophy and culture … One of the mainsprings of this system has been to let the best of each generation remain as long as possible in general education. The vocational training of this elite should therefore begin very late. It could then take place in special institutions, such as Les Grandes Écoles or on-the-job: for example, public administration in the Foreign Service. (OECD, 1984: 57–8)
Hence, the idea of apprenticeship or technical, vocational training at an early age was viewed as an obstacle to social status and upward mobility. Moreover, as the report goes on to state, manual training has been regarded as second-class training, of less value than intellectual training (OECD, 1984: 93). Examples of poor quality vocational training sites follow, complete with poignant descriptions of inadequate tools, broken equipment, meager supplies, and the scant workplace knowledge of instructors.