Everyone wants to “teach a man to fish.” But skills training alone doesn’t help the world’s poor.

By Kelsey Piper – Skills training programs take a lot of forms, but there are generally two kinds: programs aimed at individuals, which try to teach them everything they’ll need to take higher-paying local jobs, and programs aimed at business owners and prospective business owners, which try to teach them skills to run a business more efficiently and expand their operations.

Their objectives are laudable, but there’s just one problem: They largely don’t work.

Participation rates in the programs aren’t very high. People who do participate often drop out, if the program lasts more than a few days, and unsurprisingly, it’s hard to teach important results in that time. For that matter, participants might be right to ignore the program or drop out, as research suggests that the programs don’t reliably increase income.

This isn’t to say every skills training program is ineffective. But even the programs that do show results often don’t stand up to cost-benefit analysis: The results they get are worse than if they just gave people the money that is spent on training them.

That said, recent research has found cost-effective results for programs that take a combined approach: training and mentoring, plus direct grants of assets. Those programs, more than just pure skill-training approaches, look to be worth further study and investment going forward. more>

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