Education for Employment founder Bruder to speak at WCSU undergraduate commencement on May 13
Entrepreneur and advocate for Mideast youth jobs training to address Class of 2012

DANBURY, CONN. — Entrepreneur and philanthropist Ronald Bruder, who founded the Education For Employment (EFE) Network a decade ago to promote programs to reduce chronically high youth unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa, will deliver the keynote address at Western Connecticut State University’s 114th undergraduate commencement on Sunday, May 13, 2012.

Named in 2011 as one of Time Magazine’s “100 most influential people in the world,” Bruder will offer his remarks to the WCSU Class of 2012 during the commencement ceremony beginning at 10:30 a.m. in the Westside Athletic Complex on the university’s Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury.

“Ronald Bruder’s story demonstrates that a single creative, committed individual can have an impact on even the world’s most intractable problems,” WCSU President James W. Schmotter observed. “I know his remarks will inspire our graduates.”

The 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center left a searing impression on Bruder, founder of the Brookhill Group and a successful entrepreneur in diverse fields including real estate development, environmental remediation, medical technology, energy and travel. After waiting many agonizing hours that day to learn that his daughter Jessica, whose workplace was near the Twin Towers, was safe, Bruder embarked on a personal journey to develop locally designed and managed training programs targeted to meet critical vocational needs in the Middle East and North Africa.

Established in 2002, EFE is a network of semi-autonomous nonprofit affiliates in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, Palestine and Tunisia. These locally staffed and operated organizations receive capacity-building, partnership and development support from EFE offices in New York, Washington and Madrid.

Under Bruder’s leadership as global board of directors chairman, EFE seeks to address the daunting challenge of youth unemployment rates estimated by the foundation at an average of around 25 percent in the Middle East and North Africa. Bruder was especially struck by the fact that recent college graduates in the region typically faced significantly higher levels of unemployment than the workforce average, suggesting a need to provide educated but unemployed youth with training more closely attuned to labor market needs. EFE’s in-country affiliates are governed by boards whose directors include local leaders in industry, business and finance, enabling the foundation to identify specific areas of strong job demand and structure training programs to meet these employment needs.

“We do training only when we know there are jobs,” Bruder noted during a 2011 forum sponsored by the Carnegie Council. “Our goal is to enable at least 85 percent of our graduates to be gainfully employed.

“We could never go into these countries and figure out where the jobs are if we were just paying people to do that,” he said. “The people who work with us are board members, and they think of this as their foundation. They feel it, they believe it, they put money and time and effort into it. It’s a phenomenal way of moving forward — and it has worked.”

One of the most compelling testaments to the program’s success is the accelerating growth in student participation in educational programs sponsored by EFE in the six participating economies, driven in part by graduates’ proven success in gaining employment. After graduating about 1,000 students from mid-2006 through 2009, EFE programs have produced annual graduate totals reaching 1,300 in 2010 and more than 2,000 in 2011. The annual total is projected to more than double this year to about 5,000. Current EFE-sponsored training initiatives range the gamut from accounting and banking to land surveying, teaching, sales, textile merchandising and construction project management. Another important element of EFE programs is to build interviewing, resume and other personal skills to gain and keep jobs in the private sector.

Bruder was recognized for his contributions to global equity and stability as the 2007 recipient of the Americans for Informed Democracy “Innovator in Coexistence” award. He also received the 2010 Amy and Tony Polak Distinguished Advocate Award, presented by the Anne Frank Center USA. A senior fellow of the Foreign Policy Association, Bruder has published articles in Time Magazine, Huffington Post and other national media, and his work with EFE has been featured by the Economist, New York Times, Financial Times, Fortune Small Business, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, CNN Online and Al Jazeera as well as on PBS and Discovery Channel programs.

Born in Brooklyn and now residing in New Rochelle, N.Y., Bruder holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Adelphi University, a master’s degree in business administration and finance from New York University, and a post-MBA in accounting and taxation from Iona College.

Bruder emphasized during his presentation at the Carnegie Council forum that EFE continues to seek out fresh opportunities to introduce job training programs in other Muslim countries, even as it encourages established affiliates to strengthen ties with local employers and move toward self-sufficiency that will ensure their sustainability over the long term. He noted that the success of EFE training programs in improving job placements for graduates also can become a catalyst for reform at traditional higher education institutions in the Islamic world.

Commenting on the “Arab Spring” movements across the Middle East and North Africa over the past year, Bruder observed EFE’s mission to reduce youth unemployment can play a role in improving long-term prospects for successful democratic reform of political systems in the region. “The work we are doing is part of the answer to creating stable, sustainable economies, which means you will have stable societies,” he said.

For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.
 
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