Nicaraguan youth on the front lines of improving technical education

By Gretchen Robleto

July 10, 2017

BLUEFIELDS, Nicaragua — Sixteen people ages 18 to 28 and from up and down the Caribbean Coast region of Nicaragua have banded together under a shared goal: to help shape positive futures for themselves and their peers through technical education.

The group makes up the Youth Advisory Council for Technical Education, which held its inaugural meeting on June 22 in Bluefields. The council will give its members a chance to talk about their own career goals and progress – and serve as a valuable source of information for a project that is connecting youth with opportunities in technical fields.

The Technical Vocational Education and Training Strengthening for At-risk Youth project, known by its Spanish name “Aprendo y Emprendo,” seeks to expand access to quality technical training and entrepreneurship for at-risk youth on the Caribbean Coast. It is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Creative Associates International.

Cristian Manzanares became part of the council as student at the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast in Nueva Guinea, where he is pursuing a degree in intercultural nursing.

The Youth Advisory Council for Technical Education meets for the first time in Bluefields. Photos by Kathryn Clarke/Jose Collado.

“I take away something very special, and above all a commitment to work more as a group, knowing that now we’re part of this council,” he says.

Rose Mary Garcia, the project’s Chief of Party, says the council will meet every three months and give feedback on the project and the technical and vocational training institutions it’s partnering with.

The group will help evaluate youth needs, and based on their own experiences, report on the quality and accessibility of technical education institutions; the implementation of scholarships; the results of internship programs; and their own career successes.

“The youth are informed clearly and objectively about the progress of the project, and their feedback contributes to improving our strategies to strengthen technical education and promote better opportunities for technical training and employment to youth on the Caribbean Coast,” Garcia says.

Incorporating youth at all levels of the project, not just as its beneficiaries, is a major focus of Aprendo y Emprendo, Garcia says. Initiatives like the council empower young people to help shape the decisions that will affect their own lives.

Elevating young voices

Yadira Quiñones of Bluefields speaks to the Youth Advisory Council for Technical Education

In addition to giving their insight to the project, the council’s members will also serve as advocates for their peers – informing the project about classmates who may need additional support because of financial, geographical or language barriers.

They will also become ambassadors for technical training, both among their peers and through national platforms like the newly formed Nicaraguan Network for Technical Education. An overarching goal of Aprendo y Emprendo is to increase interest in technical education as a viable option for youth in the region, where unemployment is high but awareness of opportunities in technical fields is low.

A majority of the youth on the diverse council are pursuing technical careers through the project’s scholarships. Those who are not scholarship recipients will support the project in advocating for and engaging with other marginalized groups such as LGBT youth and those with disabilities.

Council member Yadira Quiñonez – who is studying for a career in business administration with an emphasis on marketing at Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University – says that even the group’s first meeting and the exchange of ideas among its members was eye-opening.

“It’s a new experience that I’ve never had, to share experiences and knowledge with youth from other municipalities,” she says. “It’s new for me, but it’s going to serve many people.”

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