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IDB approves $22 million soft loan to Haiti for vocational training

A $22-million soft loan from the Inter-American Development Bank will finance a program to provide vocational training to young people in Haiti and improve their prospects of employment, the IDB announced today.

The beneficiaries will be persons between the ages of 15 and 24 who are on the fringes of the job market. They are poor, unemployed or underemployed, have little or no formal education, limited or no work experience and lack the skills currently in demand. This group makes up about 45 percent of Haiti’s 4.5-million people labor force.

The program, which will be carried out by the Ministry of Education’s National Professional Training Institute (INFP), is aimed at preparing young people to fill the shortage of skilled workers found through surveys conducted in both the formal and informal sectors of the Haitian economy.

The demand stems, in part, from basic infrastructure projects supported by the donor community. The IDB itself is financing a large portfolio of programs covering sectors that demand skilled labor, including roads, schools, health clinics, water and sanitation systems, agriculture and small productive and community development projects.

“The lack of skilled workers constitutes a severe constraint for the Haitian labor market. Foreign middle managers and technicians are being brought in, for instance, from the Dominican Republic and the Philippines,” said IDB project team leader Emma Näslund-Hadley. “This vocational training program is a key step to help Haitians fill such job openings.”

Beneficiaries will receive training in public and private institutions in trades for which there is a demonstrated or expected demand, including construction, carpentry, electricity, plumbing, automobile and general mechanics, refrigeration and air conditioning, metal work and welding, apparel production and electronics.

Students, who will have stipends and accident insurance, will take a minimum of 300 hours of theoretical and practical courses. Once they have completed that stage, they will be placed in enterprises for internships lasting from one to six months.

Special efforts will be made to involve young women, who are vastly underrepresented in the trades in Haiti, where skilled workers earn far higher salaries than laborers and have the lowest rates of unemployment among people with at least primary school education.

The program also seeks to raise the quality of vocational education by upgrading the skills of teachers and giving them pedagogical training. Didactic materials, equipment and technologies used in training centers will be improved, as well as the facilities of the public institutions.

The INFP will be strengthened as a regulatory and normative agency by training its staff and management, creating an information management system and rehabilitating its offices. The institute will be prepared to apply a national system for certification of labor competencies and accreditation of vocational training providers.

A national task force including representatives from government ministries, training centers and private sector associations will act as an advisory group for the program to ensure that vocational education is closely aligned with the labor market’s demands and to promote companies’ participation in program activities.

This program draws from lessons learned from other vocational training initiatives financed by the IDB in Argentina, Brazil and Chile, as well as from a pilot project carried out in Haiti with a grant from the Multilateral Investment Fund. The IDB has also coordinated closely with other donors, including the European Union and the Canadian International Development Agency.

The loan is for 40 years, with a 10-year grace period. The annual interest rate will be 1 percent during the first decade and 2 percent thereafter. Local counterpart funds will total $200,000.

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