The region’s governments are investing heavily in training
to solve widespread unemployment and overcome the serious skills shortage.
Jacqueline Vitali reports
Increased foreign investment in Latin America has created a
huge demand for skilled labour, and one of the main challenges now facing
multinationals in the region is an acute skills shortage.
It is not that there is a shortage of people as there is in
the West. Of an active population of approximately 152 million in the Latin
American and Caribbean region, 12 million are unemployed, and of these, 6.6
million are young people. Therefore if the economic opportunities are to be
maximised and the region is to continue to attract foreign investors, more
training is desperately needed and government investment in training is seen as
The region’s governments and organisations have gone to
great lengths to organise training initiatives to bridge the skills gap.
According to Fernando Vargas Z£¤iga, consultant of the International Labor
Organisation (ILO), "In the past 20 years, all kinds of private training
institutions have appeared in Latin America, with such a speed that Cinterfor
[Centro interamericano de investigacion y documentacion sobre formacion
profesional of Uruguay] has described it as a training ‘explosion’. In Brazil,
for example, Planfor [the national plan for professional education] has
registered almost 16,000 training institutions; in Colombia, it is estimated
that some 400 private training entities exist; in El Salvador, a proportion of
the training of Insaforp [the Salvadorian Institute of Professional
Development] is contracted through some 60 collaborating centres; in the
Dominican Republic, training is in the hands of private institutions. In many
cases, such institutions are closely linked with unions, syndicates or business
chambers. Some of them were formed due to the inadequate responses of public
institutions to fulfil the need for such training."
Governments in the region have also stepped up efforts to alleviate
unemployment among the youth population. Proyecto Joven [Project for Youth],
for example, has been set up in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Brazil to
help improve young people’s employment possibilities by giving them intensive,
overall training in the kind of jobs currently required in all sectors. In
Argentina, the programme has set itself the goal of training up 280,000 people.
In the first phase, started in 1994, over 100,000 young people were trained;
another 180,000 will be trained in the next three years.
In Colombia, the Programme of Occupational Training for
Young People is part of the Programme for the Generation of Urban Employment
being implemented by the Social Security Network. It is financed with funds
from the loan contract signed by Colombia. Uruguay’s Projoven is one of several
decentralised programmes run by the National Employment Office (DINAE). To
date, they claim to have trained more that 1,500 young people per year.
According to Carlos-Enrique Bengtsson, site director of
recruitment consultancy Wideyes in Spain, until very recently companies didn’t
have much interest in training their employees, especially the local ones.
"They prefer to employ more manual workers than qualified people. For
multinationals it’s a different story," he says. "They prefer to
employ fewer people but with the required skills for the job. In the past
decade, the number of Latin American students in US universities has increased
and many multinationals now go directly to them. After all, they are much more
likely to be trained and prepared for the work in hand."
Despite the number of training schemes in the region, the
skills shortage is proving to be a tough problem to crack. It is timely that in
April this year, Brazil hosted one of the most important HR and corporate
management events in the world, namely the 30th Training and Development World
Conference (TDWC). This event, organised by the International Federation of
Training and Development Organisations (IFTDO) and the Brazilian Association of
Training and Development (BATD), featured international specialists in the
fields of HR, corporate management and training, and brought together some
2,500 participants from all over the world.
– International Labor Organisation: www.ilo.org
– For more information on the 2001 IFTDO conference in
Brazil, see www.td2001.com.br