Faculty Research

Hidden Talent: Tacit Skill Formation and Labor Market Incorporation of Latino Immigrants in the United States
This article examines informal training and skill development pathways of Latino immigrant construction workers in two different urban labor markets: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. We find that institutional differences across local labor markets not only shape how immigrants develop skills in specific places but also determine the localized obstacles they face in demonstrating and harnessing these skills for employment. To explain the role of local institutions in shaping differences in skill development experience and opportunities, we draw on the concept of tacit skill, a term that is rarely incorporated into studies of the labor market participation of less educated immigrants. We argue that innovative pathways that Latino immigrant workers have created to develop tacit skill can strengthen advocacy planning efforts aimed at improving employment opportunities and working conditions for marginalized workers, immigrant and nonimmigrant alike.

Capstone: In the Field

Confia – “El Futuro en Tus Manos” (2011)

Faculty: David Winder, Charles Bailey

Team: Melissa Blechman, Aquene Freechild, N. Kayden Kim, Becky Rafter, Sabrina Szklanny

The Mexican community is one of the fastest growing immigrant communities in New York City and also one of the most disenfranchised and excluded from the financial sector. EA Consultants envisions a new organization, Confia, to empower the Mexican immigrant community through information and access to formal financial markets. The Capstone team first conducted an extensive environmental scan and needs assessment to determine current opportunities. The team then analyzed the interview information to diagnose specific needs and construct a business plan for Confia. Confia will work with the community, banks, and community organizations to develop appropriate services to better facilitate financial access for Mexican immigrants.

Alumni in Action

Muende Mueke Regional Advisor UN Regional Directors’ Team for Eastern and Southern Africa

Growing up in Kenya, Mwende Caroline Mueke (MPA ’01) felt a strong pull toward public service. Early in her professional career, she worked for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Eastern Africa. In that job it became clear to her that the challenges in her field were more complicated than she had imagined, with refugee camps staying open for decades. To strengthen her education in international public affairs, she enrolled in Wagner’s international program, which focuses on developing countries.

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There were several factors that shaped Mwende’s experience at Wagner. Her advisor challenged her to compare the theories she learned in her classes with the practices she saw on the ground with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Mwende’s Capstone project focused on decentralization and local governance in Sub-Saharan Africa – an area that had particular relevance to Mwende’s personal career interests. Also while at Wagner, Mwende helped organize the Oprah Winfrey Scholars program, which brings two African women each year to NYU Wagner to study public policy and management. “For me,” Mwende says, “as an African woman, doing something to support other African women further their education in public administration (a much needed skill in Africa) was an important effort worth contributing to.” The experience that Mwende gained at Wagner led to a full-time job after graduating as a program specialist at UNDP. Currently, she is a regional coordination advisor in the Management and Coordination Unit of the UN Regional Directors’ Team for Eastern and Southern Africa, based in Johannesburg. In her free time, Mwende developed an interest in community service and became a founding member of a community-based organization supporting AIDS orphans in Kenya. Mwende looks forward to eventually returning to Kenya in the near future. “I want to use my academic credentials and development experience to work for my country’s public service commission,” she says.

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