Many times, we hear the saying: “youth are the future”. They certainly are… but what type of future can we offer to the 22 million youth who are currently out of school and out of work in Latin America and the Caribbean? Even though many young people have studied hard and received some kind of job training, they do not always find a good job. Maybe this is one of the reasons why so many young people are discouraged and do not see a future for themselves, lacking motivation to pursue their dreams. A new question emerges: How can we make the future brighter for our youth?
A recent employer survey on job training in The Bahamas offers some new insights. Employers point to skill deficiencies as the main difficulty in recruiting new employees. In particular, lack of job experience and of technical and soft skills are the most cited difficulties employers face when hiring (Fazio and Pinder (2014)). Furthermore, two in three workers lose their jobs due to the lack of soft skills, becoming the main reason for dismissals. Both hard and soft skills are a key to unlocking job opportunities for youth.
In this light, what kind of policies and programs can be helpful to close the skills gap and boost economic growth? There is a need to train young people in both technical and soft skills, making sure they are connected to the job market through either intermediation services or some type of job experience (i.e. apprenticeships).
Training in soft skills is essential for the Caribbean countries that base their economy in services such as tourism and retail. In these sectors, firms need team-oriented, punctual and respectful employees who are service-oriented with clients. A recent study in the Dominican Republic shows that programs that provide soft skills training not only have an impact on getting a quality job (Ibarraran et al (2014)), but also, this impact prevails six years after the training (Ibarraran et al (2015)).
In conclusion, we need to train young people for real jobs with relevant and good quality training. Many countries have advanced a lot in the area of skills development, as we have learned in the TransFormation events that the IDB has conducted across the region. Best practices in skills usually combine frequent interactions between the employers, demand-based training, and the linking of educational providers and students in a national institutional framework that facilitates continual adaptation of training to private sector skills needs. Some elements of success of these practices could be adapted to the specific reality of the countries in the Caribbean.
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