NEO Further Closes Youth Skills Gap in Latin America and the Caribbean

Published on Thursday, June 14, 2018

NEO Further Closes Youth Skills Gap in Latin America and the Caribbean

Lima, Peru – Leaders and partners of New Employment Opportunities (NEO) hosted a dialogue to share lessons from the initiative’s 15-year legacy of innovation and to reflect upon its impact for the future. Attendees heard dynamic talks and panel discussions featuring NEO youth participants, alliance experts, and corporate and public-sector leaders. Notable speakers and panelists included: Keisuke Nakamura, Special Advisor, Multilateral Investment Fund at Inter-American Development Bank, William S. Reese,Executive Director at the International Youth Foundation, Martha Herrera, Global Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at CEMEX, Juan Carlos Croston, Vice President of Marketing & Corporate Affairs at Manzanillo International Terminal, Lyana Latorre, Senior Director of Corporate Social Engagement at Arcos Dorados, Rodrigo Kon, Executive Director at Fondation Forge, among others.

The discussion highlighted the importance of new technologies such as big data, geo referencial technologies, intelligent portals and mobile apps to facilitate access to real time information about careers, vacancies, training courses and results. Information at our fingertips that can propel a much more scalable NEO 2.0 era.

Over the past five years, NEO has made great strides in closing the gap between youth skills and the needs of employers in the Latin America and Caribbean region. To date, NEO programs have reached 310,000 youth, half of whom are women, with skills training, internships, and jobs. NEO has established alliances among business, government, and civil society stakeholders in 10 countries to implement youth employment projects. In addition, more than 4,000 businesses have committed to offer more internships and jobs for youth.

With a 61% employment rate for participants, the NEO initiative has leveraged multi-sectoral alliances with businesses, governments, and civil society in the region to drive effective and sustainable solutions for youth unemployment and skills gaps. The initiative is led by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), through the MIF and its Labor Markets Division, the International Youth Foundation (IYF), and partners including Arcos Dorados, Caterpillar Foundation, CEMEX, Forge Foundation, Microsoft, SESI, and Walmart.

“As the small but powerful representation of NEO youth from the Dominican Republic, Peru and Chile reminded us during the NEO event in Lima, the future will be bright if we keep on investing in programs that build the emotional intelligence of youth and the employability skills to transition effectively from school to the world of work.” said Elena Heredero, lead specialist at the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank Group “ It is impressive to see how the NEO alliances were able to do this with international quality standards as well as with solid public buy- in to institutionalized and in some cases influence youth employability policies.”

"The legacy of NEO demonstrates how cross-sector partnerships can have a profound impact in the lives of young people, but can also result in sustainable changes at the level of communities and systems,” explained Angela Venza, IYF’s Regional Director of the Americas. “NEO’s legacy truly is a legacy for the future, and the event in Peru emphasized this—it was not only a celebration of success, but a constructive conversation about how to assess and learn from the past so we can iterate, improve, and innovate going forward."

NEO’s strong vision for the region has helped to engage key actors from the public, private and civil sectors. In-country programs help strengthen the connection between educational offerings and the needs of companies and to develop solutions for youth ecosystem challenges which ultimately translates to jobs and better wages for youth.

For instance, the NEO Dominican Republic alliance has led the creation of 23 Job Placement and Internship Offices (OILPs) in polytechnic high schools in 14 provinces to provide students better access to services that facilitate their transition from the classroom to employment, higher education or both. Each OILP has access to a job portal (http://www.oilp.com.do) exclusively designed for youth polytechnic graduates to help with the placement of students in internships and formal employment.

Another example is the Alliance NEO Mexico have increased the type and quality of offerings through the creation of courses aligned to the needs of leading sectors such as automotive, energy, and IT has enhanced the high school curriculum. Teachers have been trained to deliver these new courses effectively, and they learned how to deliver career guidance classes. The NEO Mexico alliance also is working to test strategies to help youth who are disengaged or in precarious jobs to acquire new vocational skills that will make them better qualified for formal employment with prospects for advancement.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, 148 million youth ages 15 to 29 make up 40 percent of the working age population. However, 1 in 5 young people do not study or work and the youth unemployment rate is as much as 3 times higher than it is for adults. Among youth who work, 6 of 10 are doing so informally. Half the companies in the region are struggling to find qualified workers, especially for technical and trade jobs. Candidates often do not have the required technical skills or lack life skills such as responsibility and teamwork.

About NEO
NEO is a pioneering initiative in which businesses, governments and civil society in Latin America and the Caribbean join forces to improve the employment opportunities for 1 million youth, half of them women, by 2022. NEO (New Employment Opportunities) is led by the Inter-American Development Bank, through its Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) and its Labor Markets Division (LMK), the International Youth Foundation (IYF) and partners: Arcos Dorados, Caterpillar Foundation, CEMEX, Forge Foundation, Microsoft, SESI, and Walmart.

About the IDB

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is devoted to improving lives. Established in 1959, the IDB is a leading source of long-term financing for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also conducts cutting-edge research and provides policy advice, technical assistance and training to public and private sector clients throughout the region.

About IYF

For more than 25 years, the focus of the International Youth Foundation (IYF®) has been to help young people succeed. A global nonprofit organization, IYF believes success in life is secured by earning a livelihood. For most youth that means choosing a career path and landing that first job, while others decide to start their own small businesses or social ventures. Regardless of the road chosen, IYF has been by the side of more than 19.7 million youth in 105 countries, empowering them to overcome the obstacles that lie in their way to leading productive, fulfilling lives.

For more information about NEO and the more than 140 institutions and partners supporting NEO, visit http://www.youthneo.org.

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