Jose Luis Pereira, 26 years old, is the older of six siblings who live in Carabayllo, a suburb of recent expansion and one of the poorest districts of the Peruvian capital. About 150,000 people live there in poverty amidst a lack good employment opportunities.
Nine years ago, Pereira graduated from an occupational education center, but was unable to get a job in the field of computer science. He said that the certificate he received was not from a recognized institution and he lacked employment contacts. Thus, he was working in the informal sector as a sort of collector of fares in “combis” or minibuses, a street salesperson, a kindergarten instructor and a motorcycle-taxi driver.
As a collector of fares in “combis,” he had a hard way to earn an income, risking his life hanging from the minibus and breathing carbon monoxide all day long. He worked from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. in order to make 20 soles (about 6 dollars) daily, and with that help to support his big family.
But in May 2004, Pereira entered a youth employability program called Entra 21, which opened doors to what he was longing for several years: to be employed in the field of computer science and telecommunications.
Entra 21, a six-month program, offered him a comprehensive package of training, mentoring and job placement support. Before he graduated from this program in October 2004, Pereira received a job offer to work for one of the private companies associated with the program.
Pereira now has more than two years in a formal job, with a good salary and social security benefits, working for MINCO, a company that provides metal structures to the telecommunications industry in Peru, for such companies as Nokia and Telefonica del Peru.
“Entra 21 opened the doors for me and my family, in addition to letting me make a nice youth group of friends from the program,” he said, thrilled. His next-oldest brother Antonio, 25 year old, is also working at MINCO as a warehouse assistant, following his brother’s steps. Jose Luis himself has been already promoted twice, first to chief of the warehouse and then to assistant for logistics, his current position.
Not only that. Pereira is a young man completely transformed thanks to Entra 21. Now he thinks more positively about his future. He pointed out some goals for the near term: to get another job promotion to chief of logistics and to get into college and pursue a career in engineering. In addition, he and his classmates from the program devote their free time to planning and conducting workshops on human development and self-esteem to encourage other young people who are wandering around in his district.
“The program has given me self-esteem and the opportunity to get in touch with professionals—everything that helps me in my career and makes me be grateful, satisfied and proud,” he said.
Launched in 2001, Entra 21 is working through local NGOs to reduce youth unemployment in 18 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The program was funded with the help of a US$10 million grant from the IDB’s Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), and now manages about US$29 million in donations, administered by the International Youth Foundation (IYF).
A recent IYF study shows the results of the program in six countries. In Bolivia, El Salvador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and the Dominican Republic, six months after graduating from the program, 54% of Entra 21 participants were working and 80% of those jobs were full-time.
Also, salaries for those who were previously working doubled or better after graduation from the program in three of the six countries studied.
The study also points out that employers surveyed reported being highly satisfied with Entra 21 graduates and considered their job performance to be equivalent to or better than that of other employees in similar jobs.
IYF study coordinator Susan Pezullo underlined that the program successfully lowered the number of youth who were neither working nor studying, from 66% at the beginning of the program to 27% at the end.
Entra 21’s director, Eliana Vera of IYF, also pointed out that job placement is one reason for the program’s success. She added that IYF seeks to expand the program to reach the youth most vulnerable: women in rural areas and youth with disabilities.
According to Donald Terry, manager of the Multilateral Investment Fund, “Entra 21 is an economic development strategy that is having a significant impact on the employability of jobless youth who have historically faced enormous challenges as they seek to enter the job market. This is a program that really delivers benefits to the region’s youth, and is now in the process of expanding its programs.”