Webstories

Jul 25, 2011

A chance for a better life

IDB helps provide life skills training and job placement for more than 47,000 Dominican at-risk youth
 

Social Transformation – story of a young future top chef

Miguel Reyes is a young aspiring chef who works at one of the finest hotels in the Dominican Republic. “I never dreamed of becoming a chef. I always had a passion for cooking and didn’t know how to make a career out of it,” says Miguel who grew up in a modest neighborhood in the west of Santo Domingo and worked at a textile factory.

Then one day he learned of a youth training program at a culinary school and grabbed the opportunity and became one of the most successful students of the program. “I had a teacher named Marisol Melo who believed in my talent and inspired me to work hard for my dream.” The program taught him basic culinary knowledge and techniques as well as skills to successfully navigate different work settings. “It was because of my good behavior and team spirit, I was selected to become an intern at the prestigious Hostal Nicolás de Ovando,” where he eventually earned the full-time job after his tireless efforts to expand knowledge and experience in the field.

Miguel is among the 47,000 socially vulnerable youth that, since 2001, participated in the Youth and Employment Program of the Dominican Ministry of Labor, which has received support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) since its inception, and later joined by the World Bank.

The program provides life skills training, such as basic mathematics, communication skills, teamwork, conflict resolution, planning and custom services. It also provides a venue for the young people who might have been neglected or abused to heal and acquire high self-esteem to redirect this new wellness for their own personal and professional development. The initiative is aimed at poor at-risk youth aged from 16-29 who are out of school and lack a regular job.

Once that phase is completed participants are offered an internship by one of the 1,500 companies that have partnered with the program. Through the internship, students receive hands-on experience through practical job training, which allows them to obtain jobs more quickly. This partnership with the private sector has greatly contributed to the success of the program.

“This program is giving young people the work experience and the skills needed to improve their employability for better quality jobs in the formal sector,” says Laura Ripani, IDB senior economist who leads the IDB’s support for the Youth and Employment Program in the Dominican Republic.

Unemployment rate among young people (aged 18–29) in the Dominican Republic is at 34 percent, at least twice as high than adults. Job quality is also an important issue among youth because most are mainly employed in the informal sector, where wages are low and opportunities for further development and training practically non-existent. Lacking opportunities and resources, the youths may turn to harmful activities, such as drug trafficking and prostitution.

Impact

In the first phase of the program, implemented between 2001 and 2008, 47,000 youth participated in the training and internships, of these 22 percent were employed by the same companies they received internships and about 60 percent obtained a job within six months after the completion of the program, according to the Dominican Ministry of Labor.

The positive outcomes generated by the program prompted the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to join the IDB in recognizing as one of the most outstanding youth development programs in the region.

Latin America and the Caribbean made significant strides in economic growth in the past decade but a significant portion of the region, including youths, still remains in poverty.

“The best practices and lessons learned from this program can be replicated in other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, where one in five youths, or 22 million individuals, are neither studying nor working,” adds Ripani.

Preliminary results from the program’s evaluation show the positive impacts of this program. For instance, the employment rate of female beneficiaries was significantly higher than those who did not participate in the program. In addition the formal employment rate for male beneficiaries in the capital of Santo Domingo, the hub of formal sector job opportunities, was significantly higher compared to non-beneficiaries. This new study also revealed positive social outcomes of the program, such as reduction in youth violence, teenage pregnancy and an increase in the rate of school returns.

The IDB provided financing of $16 million in 1999 and additional $10 million in 2005 for the Labor Markets and Social Transfer projects, which helped to finance the employment program. The Bank also played a key role in the management of the program by providing its technical support throughout the process.

Next step

The IDB is supporting the Dominican government in the implementation of the next phase of the program with a loan of $20 million approved recently. The program is expected to benefit an additional 24,000 young people with an expected employment rate of at least 80 percent after the completion of the program.

The IDB is also working closely with the Dominican officials and the private sector to further enhance the effectiveness of the program by redesigning the training modules to double the hours of life skills training and incorporate practical technical-vocational skills, to provide skilled workers for the competitive industrial sectors such as trading services and hotels and restaurants.

In addition, the program is also mainstreaming gender issues from the early stage to promote labor force participation of young women, who are among the most vulnerable in the Dominican labor market.

Reyes says the program transformed his life and wants others to have the same opportunity. “I hope that young people without a job and resources be given a chance as I did through the program. In life you cannot just wait for things to happen for you. But with determination, hard work and perseverance, anything is achievable,” he said.

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