Countering violence & poverty with vocational skills training in Nicaragua


October 27, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC—Suffering from unemployment rates of more than 50 percent, thousands of Nicaraguan youth along the Caribbean coast will be part of a new vocational education initiative that will provide them with sought-after skills, Creative Associates International announced.

The program—called the Technical Vocational Education and Training Strengthening for At-Risk Youth program—is designed to galvanize Nicaragua’s private sector and strengthen eight training institutions serving vulnerable youth on the Caribbean coast. It is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Creative and CARANA Corp.

“To effect lasting change, we need to focus on the institutions that provide essential vocational training to at-risk youth,” says Katy Vickland, Creative’s Director of Workforce Development and Youth Employment. “We use a proven model that focuses on high-quality, relevant technical training for at-risk youth to prepare them with the job-focused skills they need for a more promising future,”

Nicaragua’s vicious cycle

As the poorest country in Central America, Nicaragua struggles to employ many unskilled and socially disconnected youth on the Caribbean Coast, where unemployment reaches 55 percent. Instead, they find themselves involved in illicit or violent activities, including trafficking, or affiliating with one of the country’s estimated 268 gangs.

The effect is insecurity that affects whole swaths of the country. Homicide rates in this area are among the highest in the nation.

Although opportunities do exist—particularly in agribusiness, fishing, tourism, retail and service industries—the country’s technical vocational education and training institutions are coming up short in their response to employers’ needs.

The training centers lack the organizational capacity, resources and tools to provide these young people with relevant training.

The program will further strengthen these institutions by creating private sector alliances that allow for demand-driven, high-quality educational courses that include hard, soft and life skills.

“Our strategy is to work with education providers and students to align the curriculum with the needs of potential employers,” says Vickland. “That alignment is one of the keys to breaking the cycle of continued unemployment.”

She also stressed the need to help young people develop life skills and soft skills essential for employment and entrepreneurship success.

Creative will also help to establish four regional or sector-based Technical Vocational Education Training networks. Together, these vocational education providers will have greater capacity and a stronger voice in national policymaking.

Embedded in their communities, these networks will spur collaboration for seamless wrap-around services for at-risk youth, including psychosocial and family support. This combination of services to youth and their families is proven to mitigate crime, domestic violence and other high-risk behaviors among youth that lead to insecurity in neighborhoods.

By aligning business, training institution, youth and community interests, the program builds a solid platform for sustainability once USAID funding ceases.

Using the proven e-learning and collaboration platform CreativeU, the program will promote joint learning and resource sharing; through the portal, training institutions will share access to labor demand information, courses, teaching manuals, assessments and common job-search and work-readiness tools.

Expertise bringing opportunity to at-risk youth

Creative has supported thousands of at-risk youth at our nearly 200 Outreach Centers in the most challenging neighborhoods across El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama. The Outreach Centers provide youth with access to safe spaces off the streets as well as vocational training, life skills, tutoring support, music lessons, volunteer opportunities and more.

Its USAID-funded Alianza Joven program spurred a youth against violence movement that is now active in every Central American country and has influenced national and regional policy decisions.

The organization’s workforce development programming has also been effective. Its Afghanistan Workforce Development Program brings technical and business-management skills to around 22,000 mid-career professionals, and has placed or promoted—with salary increases—over 13,000 skilled workers.

The Technical Vocational Education and Training Strengthening for At-Risk Youth program director, Danilo Cruz-DePaula, has more than 35 years of experience in youth and workforce development. He successfully increased private sector competiveness via policy reform, value chain strengthening and workforce development as head of USAID’s Enterprise and Employment program in Nicaragua.

About Creative Associates International

Creative Associates International works with underserved communities by sharing expertise and experience in education, economic growth, governance and transitions from conflict to peace.

Based in Washington, D.C., Creative has active projects in more than 15 countries. Since 1977, it has worked in nearly 90 countries and on almost every continent. Recognized for its ability to work rapidly, flexibly and effectively in conflict-affected environments, Creative is committed to generating long-term sustainable solutions to complex development problems.

Started by four enterprising women with diverse backgrounds, Creative has grown to become one of the leaders among the U.S. private sector implementers of global development projects. Creative is minority owned and operated.

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