Best practices

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One clear model of best practices is the "Chile Joven" vocational training programme, which was launched in 1990 and has already been adapted to conditions in other Latin American countries that are replicating it. The programme is unusual in that it provides training within relatively short time periods using innovative operational methods, and emphasizes the relevance of the occupations selected and the effective job placement of young people instead of focusing exclusively on technical training. The programme’s implementation involves numerous actors, both public and private, ranging from the Ministry of Labour to entrepreneurs with a commitment to the training and employability of young people. The applicable rules of the game are competitive, so that even applying to the programme requires young people to exert their own efforts and initiative from the outset. The programme targets young people with medium and low levels of education, and assessments are made of the subsequent labour market participation of the beneficiaries. The Chile Joven” programme includes various complementary, flexible subprogrammes that expand the options available to young people: an on-the-job training and work experience subprogramme, a two-track learning subprogramme and a self-employed workers’ subprogramme. 

The first of these subprogrammes includes a technical training phase that partially qualifies participants for an occupation (200 hours) and a job training phase that develops social skills to facilitate young people’s job placement (50 hours). The beneficiaries then take part in a three-month work experience performing the job learned in a firm, either as interns or with job contracts. The executing agencies include private training firms and corporations, which offer nearly 2,000 courses that benefit some 35,000 young people. 

The two-track learning subprogramme has a pre-training component that provides remedial instruction in basic subjects (60-120 hours), a training component to complement on-the-job training and develop an understanding of the technology used in the occupation (180-300 hours) and an on-the-job training component in a firm with a teacher-mentor, in parallel with the training component in the technical agency. In this case the beneficiary is a regular worker in the firm and the State provides the firm with a subsidy equivalent to 40% of the minimum wage for the duration of the course. Some 140 such courses are being given, for the benefit of about 3,000 participants.

Lastly, the subprogramme for self-employed workers includes occupational training (80 hours) and management training (at least 100 hours); upon completion of the second component, the student must prepare a project to be financed by the programme’s credit assistance network. The network, in turn, makes two assessments: one prior to the provision of financing, which includes a pre-feasibility study of the project and formalizes the support to be provided with a letter of commitment; and another, once the course has begun, that evaluates the feasibility of the student’s project. At least 50 hours of technical assistance are provided for the projects, and the beneficiaries receive a monthly subsidy of US$ 54 for the duration of the technical assistance phase, up to a maximum of three months.

ii.                   Another prime example of a State-led initiative is the PROJOVEN
Programme in Uruguay. This is a cross-sectoral vocational training programme for low-income young people between the ages of 17 and 24. It was launched six years ago and involves the National Employment Board, the National Employment Office of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the National Youth Institute. The Programme is financed with the resources contributed by private-sector workers and employers to an Occupational Retraining Fund, and also from the general budget.

The Programme is considered an example of best practices for several reasons.
The first is that it creates linkages between the job supply and the demand for jobs, as all the training it provides is adapted to reflect employment trends. This is facilitated by the fact that the Programme is funded in part by workers’ and employers’ associations and that it represents a cross-sectoral initiative by different State institutions. In addition, PROJOVEN obtains providers for its training courses by extending public invitations to bid, with the stipulation that the providers should adapt the course content to the demands and requirements of businesses that hire workers.

            Second, the Programme targets groups that not only are vulnerable themselves, but also tend to reproduce vulnerability. The Programme focuses on young men and women who have not finished secondary school and do not have formal jobs, most of whom have dropped out of the educational system and lack both work experience and the skills they need to obtain work. Within this group, the Programme gives preference to those who are already heads of household (fathers and/or mothers).

            Third, the Programme offers a variety of training options to meet the needs of subgroups with different levels of difficulty. It combines three basic modules: specific or technical training (200 hours), a vocational orientation workshop (50 hours) and job placement supported by information, business contacts and follow-up (up to 3 months), along with two complementary training programmes (150 hours) and a training internship (3 months). For young people with additional needs, these courses are supplemented with basic skills training in reading and writing and in interpersonal relations, to strengthen the general abilities required in the world of work. The Programme also takes advantage of the benefits available under Uruguay’s Youth Employment Act, which encourages firms to hire young people in order to promote on-the-job training and fosters linkages between vocational training institutions and businesses.

            Follow-up surveys of beneficiaries who have completed the Programme show a 36% reduction in the number of young people without work, a near-100% increase in the number who are working and a gross workforce participation rate of over 50% for all beneficiaries. Programme participants also tend to obtain higher-quality jobs in terms of both remuneration and fringe benefits.

iii.                  An interesting initiative by a local-government agency is the Primer Oficio
(“First Job”) Programme developed by the Municipal Youth Secretariat of the municipal government of Curitiba, Brazil. This Programme, which was started in 1989, has the aim of providing unemployed adolescents with opportunities to join the labour force and earn an income. This is accomplished through a job placement programme in partnership with various firms located in the city. Circa 1998, some 115 firms in Curitiba participated in the Programme, which was financed entirely with local-government funds.

            One positive aspect of this initiative is the high rate of participation by businesses located in the city. Also noteworthy is the fact that Latin America does not traditionally have city services that match unemployed young people with businesses’ demand for workers. Another interesting point is that, far from representing an alternative to formal education, the Programme requires the young people selected to stay in school, and monitors their school performance. The beneficiaries take an introductory course to enable them to fill available vacancies in the firms in the city that support the Programme, and after they are hired the specialists of the Municipal Youth Secretariat follow up on them to assess their school performance, adaptation within the firm and family situation. Thus, this initiative is not merely a municipal youth employment agency, but a comprehensive programme that takes the beneficiaries’ educational, work and personal lives into account.

iv.                 Non-governmental organizations offer many youth participation
programmes, but far fewer of them operate in the specific area of employment, as national and local governments are usually the ones that have the necessary resources, influence and institutionalized links with the business world. One non-governmental programme is the AXÉ Project/Programme run by the Association of Parish Communities of Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. This non-governmental organization, founded in 1991, addresses the needs of street children and adolescents at risk. The Project/Programme’s objective is to provide street children with an educational process in which work is regarded as an essential tool for building good citizenship. The aim is to create opportunities for employment and production as a means of generating income and facilitating the beneficiaries’ social, family, educational and productive reintegration. The initiative is funded by the federal Government (20%), the local government (10%), international cooperation (35%) and private contributions (3%), in addition to a self-financing component (32%).

            The programme has several distinctive features. First, the kind of training provided takes young people’s motivations and generational sensibility into account. Priority has been given to the fashion industry as a teaching instrument and as a foundation for productive development, reaffirmation of cultural identity and reinforcement of self-esteem. Second, the programme targets the population at highest risk – i.e., street children in a city with a high level of extreme poverty. Third, the teaching strategies used seek to break down the dichotomy between vocational training and citizenship-building and between social projects and economic activity by combining liberal arts education with complementary technical and occupational training. Lastly, the initiative takes a pragmatic approach that strongly encourages the autonomous business management of training and production workshops and focuses on establishing links with private firms.

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