Over the past year, the labor markets in Latin America and the Caribbean have regressed at least 10 years-with 23 million people temporarily removed from the workforce losing their jobs and their income, according to the International Labor Organization. But the unemployment rate tells only part of the story in this region of the world. According to the ILO, there was an unprecedented change this year where many people just gave up looking for work due to the lack of opportunities. The active participation rate plummeted by 5.4 percentage points to 57.2 percent, according to data available at the end of the third quarter of 2020.
Yet, amid these grim numbers, there is a bright spot, the Latin American economy remains on its digital destiny with 40% of GDP digitalized by 2022, driving $460 billion of IT spending from 2020 to 2023.
This could be why many people are trying to improve their professional and technical skills to pursue more rewarding and in-demand careers.
A recent IBM Institute for Business Value study found that about one in four people are planning to voluntarily switch jobs in 2021. Many are preparing for the move by taking matters into their own hands to build new opportunities and more sustainable careers. According to the study, most of those surveyed plan to reskill or upskill this year. For example, 58% said they planned to take continuing education courses this year, mostly online versus in person. And 25% said their reskilling or upskilling goals for 2021 included enrollment in a formal degree, certification, or badging program. Out of all regions in the survey, Latin American respondents boasted the highest percentage of people looking to upgrade their skills, and to do so through digital means.
To help meet this need, IBM is launching SkillsBuild. This free and open online learning program aims to empower adult job seekers and entrepreneurs with professional workplace readiness and technical skills for just about any industry. Job seekers can gain access to a wide portfolio of interactive courses in languages that include English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish (with Portuguese later this year); access to personalized coaching; the ability to complete portfolio-building projects; and earn online credentials to showcase their skills to potential employers. The personalized coaching and real-life projects set SkillsBuild apart.
Learners accessing the program can self-assess employment interests and aptitude, helping them identify and connect with a learning path that fits their skill set. Learning paths and badges cover specific technical skill sets, such as cloud computing, web development, Linux systems administrator, data analysis, cybersecurity, blockchain, and more. Learners can also take courses on how to conduct job searches, and improve upon professional, workplace proficiencies like collaboration, presentation, time management, client service, and critical thinking – even mindfulness.
SkillsBuild is part of a suite of IBM education initiatives, including P-TECH and Open P- TECH, that help to strengthen regional economies by targeting underserved populations to better prepare a workforce for what IBM calls “new collar” jobs — skilled, tech positions that don’t necessarily require a traditional, four-year college degree. P-TECH students can graduate with high school diplomas, tuition-free associate degrees aligned to industry needs, and workplace experiences, including paid mentorship and internships, within six years or less. P-TECH schools works in collaboration with a high school (or equivalent secondary institution in the country), a community college (or equivalent post-secondary institution in the country) and an employer partner (also known as an industry partner – some partnerships have more than one industry partner). The model started by IBM and educators in 2011 is now in 28 countries and regions worldwide, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and the U.S.A.
Open P-TECH is a free digital learning platform, available in Spanish and Portuguese, that extends aspects of the P-TECH model to provide free workplace learning, and professional and technical skills curriculum to learners and teachers. As of March 11, 2021, over 261,000 learners and teachers are using the platform in more than 171 countries, including 89,000 registered users in Latin America since its launch last March.
Open P-TECH is a free digital learning platform, available in Spanish and Portuguese, that extends aspects of the P-TECH model to provide free workplace learning, and professional and technical skills curriculum to learners and teachers.
As of March 11, 2021, over 261,000 learners and teachers are using the platform in more than 171 countries, including 89,000 registered users in Latin America since its launch last March.
By focusing on skills over degrees, we can all make the tech industry and tech itself more diverse and inclusive. Socioeconomic growth must bring in people to the IT field with relevant technical skills who have non-traditional and built skills through coding camps, community colleges, or modern career education programs like SkillsBuild.
We need to help more people from Latin America re-entering the workforce or re-launching their careers to create more jobs for people in parts of the world where technology jobs and prospects may seem scarce. The pandemic has challenged us in so many ways; let’s rebuild even stronger.
Justina Nixon-Saintil is the Vice President and Global Head at IBM Corporate Social Responsibility. Her career has spanned leadership roles across marketing, program management, network engineering, and social responsibility. Currently, she focuses on creating and leading programs that address the barriers to digital inclusion. She is a special guest in our blog series about the development of #skills21 in Latin America and the Caribbean.