Current Projects

Job Quality through Manufacturing Extension

US manufacturing is struggling with both a productivity and job quality challenge. These challenges are interconnected, reinforcing the need for increased coordination of economic and workforce development efforts. My on-going research program on US Manufacturing Extension (MEP) explores the role MEP centers play in improving job quality outcomes by helping small- and medium-sized manufacturing firms introduce workplace changes that also support long-term business success.

See my evaluation of IMEC’s Genesis program in Chicago with Greg Schrock (Portland State University), Ranita Jain (Annie E. Casey Foundation) and Maureen Conway (Aspen Institute).

My report with UNC collaborators on MEP center responses to COVID-19 is also available here (pdf)

Climate Change and Work

Climate warming is the fundamental challenge of our time, not only because it will radically transform our natural environment but also because it will redefine jobs and livelihoods. Natasha Iskander (NYU) and I explore how climate change pressures affect work, production and technology. Our project digs deeper than a concern with numbers of jobs destroyed or created to consider the way that climate pressures will define and redefine the structure of work, the conditions under which workers perform it, the skills they use, and the ways that the organization of work enables the adoption and development of new technologies. Building on themes raised in an article we published in the Annual Review of Political Science, we use this project to contemplate the conditions under which worker interests are foregrounded or instead marginalized as industries mobilize in response to climate change.

COVID-19 Retooling

Factories are adapting to the new conditions and needs the pandemic has introduced by retooling production lines and repurposing knowledge and technology to manufacture essential items for COVID‑19 management. Tara Vinodrai (University of Toronto) and I explore the nature and scale of these retooling efforts by manufacturing firms in the US and Canada and explore the national and regional institutional supports that turn this crisis response into a resource for economic regeneration.