The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) and the National Confederation of Industries (CNI), working alongside the Brazilian Social Service of Industry (SESI) and the National Industrial Training Service (SENAI), are launching an initiative, Edulibre (the Free Education Project), to help poor and low-income youth in Brazil acquire competencies and life skills through an online training program, aiming to improve their opportunities to secure employment.
This $10 million project hopes to achieve great scale, reaching 460,000 beneficiaries by adapting a successful life skills training methodology developed in the MIF-International Youth Foundation entra21 program to a digital learning environment. The MIF is providing $2 million in non-reimbursable resources, with executing partner SESI providing the remaining $8 million. The project is part of the MIF’s New Employment Opportunities (NEO) Initiative, which is creating public-private alliances in the region in order to offer effective job training and placement services to at least one million young people.
Booming Brazil is facing a big challenge: high unmet demand for skilled workers in its labor force. According to the 2012 ManpowerGroup Talent Shortage Survey, 71% of Brazilian employers are struggling to find qualified employees. An estimated four million trained workers per year are needed to meet the country’s industrial development. The institutions that make up the country’s Industrial Training System are working to fill this gap. The federal government has created the National Program of Access to Technical Education and Employment (PRONATEC), aiming to train an eight million workers by 2014, and through its programs SENAI is reaching over two million Brazilian workers every year.
However, millions of poor and low-income youth lack the math and Portuguese language skills, and life skills such as communication, teamwork and reliability, both of which are required to gain access to these government training programs in the first place. While youth may lack basic competencies, they are more tech-savvy than ever before, thanks to increased access to mobile phones, the Internet and social networks. This connection between youth and technology can be used to develop innovative educational solutions for closing the skills gap.
Edulibre aims to develop an innovative online portal designed to expand educational opportunities for poor and low-income youth and strengthen both their basic math and Portuguese competencies and life skills. Equipped with these, youth will be able to gain access to other technical training programs, such as those provided by SENAI, internships, and decent employment. To maintain youth engagement, the online curriculum will be interactive and game-based, and youth will receive guidance from online tutors and additional support from volunteer mentors.
Depending on their goal (employment or further technical training), youth will follow different personalized learning routes that take into account the youth’s profile, as well as the technical demands of the industrial sector they’ve selected or the technical training course for which they are aiming to qualify.
Through technology, this project has the potential to reach youth at a greater scale than ever before, speeding progress on improving youth basic competencies and on closing the skills gap. The MIF hopes that this platform will be a public good with the potential to be transferred to other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, helping expand access to markets and skills throughout the region.