Project Results and Lessons - ICT and Employability Training for Poor Brazilian Youth

In May 2003, the 50 disadvantaged Brazilian youths who entered the USAID/Brazil funded dot-ORG project, Programa Para o Futuro (Program for the Future) had few prospects for the future. Having grown up in some of the poorest areas of Recife, on Brazil’s northeast coast, they could not afford to attend college and they lacked the marketable job skills needed to find and keep jobs. They were trapped in a tenacious cycle of poverty.

Today, their outlook is strikingly different. Programa’s innovative curriculum, integrating information and communication technology (ICT) and employability training has taught these young people the workplace readiness and computer skills they need to succeed in the technologically driven workplace of the 21st century.

The students credit the program with enabling them to transform their lives, giving them the skills needed to compete successfully for quality jobs, and opening the doors to a better future. All youth who started the program in May 2003 graduated—an unprecedented achievement. Nearly 75 percent of students who graduate from the program have found well-paying jobs and internships with solid career opportunities. Furthermore, over 80 percent of graduates are now attending IBRATEC, a private information and communications technology college, on free scholarships orchestrated by dot-ORG and the local project coordinator Tania Ogasawara.

Abraao Carneiro, celebrating graduation with his tutor As Abraão Carneiro, a 21-year-old graduate of Programa, who now wants to become a computer engineer, Programa Para o Futuro is “helping me gain the skills and showing me the path I need to follow to make my dreams come true.”

The program, funded by USAID/Brazil, was implemented under the dot-ORG project, with four Brazilian NGO partners with essential support from the private sector. The four Brazilian NGOs were LTNet-Brasil, Casa de Passagem, Porto Digital, and CDI-Pernambuco. The Bank of Brazil provided space for the training facility in its office building in Recife. IBM-Brazil donated all computer hardware needed for the training program and provided funds for student uniforms. Microsoft-Brazil provided all software including legacy operating systems so that youth could learn about the latest software along with software that business are still using. ABA, a local English language school, provided two English teachers free of charge and IBRATEC, the largest private technical college in Recife, provided free scholarships to all Programa graduates so that they could continue on with their technical education.

In addition, dot-ORG designed and implemented the first e-Mentoring program in Brazil that linked each youth with a professional from local companies. Through this e-Mentoring program, about 50 local companies partnered with the program by providing time off for their staff to enable them to be effective e-Mentors. The e-Mentoring experience enabled the youth to build a professional network so critical to employment and job success and significantly expand their social networks. This network is being credited by the youth and their employers with improving job performance.

Lessons Learned
As economies change the work place has evolved to become more global. Unfortunately, education systems and training programs in many countries have not kept pace with the evolving demands of business. Consequently youth in Brazil, and in most countries, leave high school with very few of the skills needed to enter the professional job market. Corporations, school systems, governments and families across the globe are seeking solutions to the growing and frightening problem of youth unemployment. Part of this problem is linked to sluggish economic growth in many countries, but where economies are growing this problem is often more strongly linked to the appalling mismatch between the skills and abilities that the job market demands and that youth have to offer when they leave secondary school. Time and again, from Brazil, the United States, to Jordan and other emerging economies, companies of all sizes and types complain that they cannot find people with the skills to fill the jobs they have and therefore they are unable to grow and create more jobs. Experience is showing that simple technical training activities, such as computer courses, or basic “how-to” classes in computer applications are unable to correct this mismatch between demand and supply and to enable eager young people to learn essential employability and life skills that will enable them to secure productive futures.

To address the problems described above, dot-ORG developed an innovative curriculum and project- based instructional method that simulated the workplace and provided the youth with daily opportunities for practical, hands-on and experiential learning. This IT employability training curriculum integrated a mix of technical skills training with more challenging employability, life, team work and problem solving skills. The training program also focused on building and strengthening the communication skills of youth.

Integrating all program aspects into a comprehensive curriculum and using a project-based and results-oriented instructional approach was not easy for the instructional team. In addition to a two week intense training of trainers program that introduced the instructional team to the curriculum and the team-based instructional method staff engaged in on-going professional development activities to reinforce their project-based teaching skills and help them address their concerns and doubts.

Because this training program targeted disadvantaged youth it had to also pay close attention to the pressures faced by the youth and their families’ expectations in terms of immediate sources of income. To help youth face these pressures and to keep them enrolled, the project included a series of family meetings over the course of the project to keep parents informed, enable parents to give advice to the project team and to strengthen the focus of youth and parents on longer-term objectives instead of meeting immediate and often desperate needs.

While the project is now closed, it resulted in the development of a very successful model that can hopefully be replicated, adapting the innovative curriculum and instructional methods to other settings or countries.

AED was awarded the Brazil Project which starts on November 1, 2002 for a period of two years (Award No. 512-A-00-02-00017-00 under the dot-ORG Leader Award No.GDG-A-00-01-00014-00.)

For More Information, Contact:
DOT-COM: Eric Rusten
Project Director, Programa para o futuro
Academy for Educational Development
Tel: (202) 884-8714

Field: Tania Ogasawara
Project Coordinator, Programa para o futuro
Academy for Educational Development
Tel: +55 81 3419-8014

Related DOT-COM Activity
Brazil - Programa Para o Futuro
Related DOT-COMments Newsletter Articles
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Core funding for the DOT-COM Alliance is provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture & Trade, Office of Infrastructure and Engineering (EGAT/OI&E), Office of Education (EGAT/ED), and Office of Women in Development (EGAT/WID), under the terms of Award numbers: GDG-A-00-01-00009-00, dot-GOV; GDG-A-00-01-00014-00, dot-ORG; GDG-A-00-01-00011-00, dot-EDU.
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