A path-breaking alliance between major corporations and the public sector will expand effective job training and placement models, reaching one million youth in Latin America and the Caribbean over the next decade.
Today, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) and the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group joined with five of the region’s leading employers: Walmart, Caterpillar, Microsoft, CEMEX, and Arcos Dorados/McDonald’s, to launch a new partnership called NEO (New Employment Opportunities, or Nuevos Empleos y Oportunidades in Spanish). These five companies together currently employ more than nearly half a million workers in the region. The IDB’s Social Sector will have a key role in bringing government agencies into the partnership.
NEO aims to improve job entry on a significant scale among poor and low-income youth by bringing together key private and public actors to provide high-impact, market-relevant training and job placement services to the region’s young people. Through this ambitious initiative, the private sector will play a leading role in helping governments develop strategies to address youth unemployment in the region.
“Through NEO, companies, governments and development institutions will work together to address two of the most urgent issues facing our region: youth unemployment and unmet demand for skilled workers,” said IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno during the CEO Summit of the Americas. “The announcement we are making today is just the beginning. We invite governments and other companies and organizations to join NEO and help us make a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people.
“Since 2001, we have been working with the IDB/MIF and our corporate partners to improve employment opportunities for underserved youth across the region, providing over 135,000 young people with the training, skills and support they need to find decent jobs,” said William S. Reese, President and CEO of IYF. “We are thrilled to be part of this historic initiative so that not just thousands but a million more youth can become productive citizens, support their families, and lift up their communities.”
Thirty-two million young people in the region (one in every five youths ages 15 to 29) are neither at work nor in school. This disadvantaged group is increasingly excluded from the formal economy and at risk of engaging in crime, gangs, and other unhealthy or violent activities. At the same time, a 2011 survey of 40,000 firms in Latin America and the Caribbean by the workforce consulting company Manpower reveals that half of the companies across the region are struggling to find qualified employees.
NEO will address both challenges by launching large-scale training programs that prepare young people with both technical and life skills that will help them succeed in entry-level jobs. The training will be tailored to meet the needs of the region’s employers and will include internship and job placement services, which will match youth with companies. At least half of the participants in NEO’s training programs will be girls and young women.
NEO’s founding partners have made an initial commitment of $37 million in cash and in-kind resources to fund training, internship, and job placement programs. The NEO partnership is projected to include up to 1,000 companies with presence in the region, from multinational corporations to regional and local businesses.
Achieving scale will require participation by governments committed to youth training programs with strong job placement results. NEO will work with governments across the region on scaling up best-practice youth employment programs.
The forward-looking companies joining us as founding members of NEO are prepared to invest in youth—not only for their own labor force needs, but also for the future of the regional economy. "They are dedicated to training youth for 21st century jobs,’’ said Nancy Lee, general manager of the MIF.