by Lucía Hodgson
US Board of Directors, Fundación A. Jean Brugger
Several years ago, having a university diploma was the only element necessary to make you competitive in the labor field and stand out from other candidates in Nicaragua. More recently, the basic skills expected of a professional have changed significantly.
In the same way that our society grows and evolves, so do job profiles. Some of the trends that have influenced these changes, although not the only ones, are the internationalization of companies/organizations and the incorporation of new technologies to execute daily tasks.
It is necessary that our youth have access to opportunities that allow them to develop practical skills, outside of traditional classrooms. This can mean internships, professional apprenticeships, vocational workshops, and courses that ensure proficiency in the most commonly used technological tools and programs.
Many students about to graduate don’t know how to write a resume, how to behave in a job interview, or what questions to ask the future boss; much less how to negotiate a salary and employment terms. Some do not yet have confidence in their capability to learn more complex computer programs, and therefore do not apply to certain job vacancies.
These capacities apply to employment for someone else, but what if we want to be entrepreneurs? Although it is seen a little more often now, entrepreneurship courses and workshops are not commonly accessible, and not all curricula include such a component.
For many of us, internships, workshops and extra courses were part of our academic path, but what happens when the internships available aren’t available in the municipalities or rural areas of the country? What happens when the cost of acquiring practical skills is very high for a family? We are leaving behind a significant number of outstanding young people, and taking away the opportunity to acquire certain skills that they could then replicate in their communities.
In the last two years, and as a result of the socio-political crisis that Nicaragua has suffered since 2018, we see a worrying trend regarding the number of available jobs and the number of people looking for work. The Fundación Nicaragüense para el Desarrollo Económico y Social - FUNIDES estimates a growth in the unemployment rate of almost 4% in three years. From 3.7% in 2017 to 7.3% projected for 2020.
Similarly, a publication of the newspaper La Prensa about job opportunities available in the country analyzes how, in the last 3 years, there has been an increase in unemployment. At the end of 2020 there will be 116,000 more Nicaraguans looking for work than in 2017. In addition, the requirements to qualify for vacancies are increasingly demanding and more competitive than in times of economic growth, and wages are lower.
These elements are alarming, but at the same time confirm the validity and urgency of increasing investment in youth, and of strengthening initiatives in favor of education in Nicaragua. As a Foundation, this information pushes us to continue thinking about more and better opportunities for our scholars. Professional practices, vocational guidance workshops, and close monitoring and counseling can give that added value to the curricula and professional perspectives of our scholars.
To counterbalance these imbalances and alarming data organizations such as Fundación A. Jean Brugger (FAJB) and others in the country, strive to provide scholarship opportunities to young people from municipalities and rural areas. In the case of FAJB, in the municipality of San Juan del Sur.
In these programs the impact of university scholarships can be maximized if combined with capacity-development programs for scholarship students. This is the case of Fundación A. Jean Brugger, which in addition to providing resources for young people to complete a university career, seeks to increase the chances of employment and development of their students. These processes occur as part of the community service program that offers a space for young people to develop work experience in their field of study and, at the same time, replicate their knowledge in the communities.
These internal processes have given a significant advantage to the capacity building of students that have graduated in FAJB’s 20 years of operation, ensuring that 70% of our graduates in 2019 were employed despite a deep national economic crisis. In 2017, 95% of our graduates had full-time employment or owned their own businesses. It is here that we can confirm the need to continue innovating, and the effectiveness of the efforts made in these two decades.
In these efforts to continue opening doors and deepening our strategies, in 2020 the FAJB has found an opportunity for two humanities students to do a 6-month internship at the Colegio Nórdico Internacional (CNI) in Managua.
Students will be teacher’s assistants for children in the first years of education (from preschool to third grade), and would learn from the experience of the Center for Educational and Social Research (CIASES), which has developed a comprehensive early childhood educational system, the “Chiqui Gym” educational project, which is implemented in the CNI.
This is the first step. This year it will serve both parties as a pilot project, to refine and improve collaboration. We look forward to continuing benefiting talented young people and supporting their professional growth.
Assisting San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, through education and opportunity