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Guiding young Salvadorans away from violence and into formal employment

 

Program participant Claudia Felicita Montano said: “I consider myself a youth committed to making a difference for my company, my community, and my family.”Program participant Claudia Felicita Montano said: “I consider myself a youth committed to making a difference for my company, my community, and my family.”

To curb the rise of gang activity, the government of El Salvador created the Temporary Income Support Program (known as PATI), which pays unemployed youth a salary for six months of community work and a two-week entrepreneurial training. USAID’s Improving Access to Employment Program (managed by CARANA) designed an add-on to PATI to multiply and sustain its impact. Launched in mid-2011, “Jóvenes Comprometidos” (Youth Ready and Willing) widens access to employment of high school graduates (18-26 years old) by developing basic skills for common occupations.

USAID’s analysis revealed that many at-risk youth in El Salvador struggle to meet the soft skill requirements for available positions. To close this gap, the Improving Access to Employment Program reached out to the private sector to identify positions they are failing to staff adequately. USAID then engaged local NGOs to train groups of PATI youth for immediate entry-level job opportunities at restaurants, retail outlets, and offices.

Among them was 19-year-old Claudia Felicita Montano from San Salvador’s working-class suburb Apopa, where gangs recruit youth in public schools and extort business owners into paying “rent” to ensure their safety. Claudia participated in a one-week customer service course in customer service through Jóvenes Comprometidos, along with other 19 young people. Fully funded by USAID, this 40-hour training is taught by two reputed Salvadoran entities, FUSALMO and the Chamber of Commerce.

“I learned how to serve a customer in a restaurant, how to deal appropriately with a job interview, and how to make my first professional résumé,” said Claudia, who landed a full-time job at Pizza Hut two days after completing the course. “This is a great opportunity because I finally have a job, we all support each other, and I am learning more everyday about the world of work.” The only member of her family with a formal job (her father is informally employed, and her mother stays at home with two younger children), Claudia also enjoys sizeable benefits, including life insurance, schedule flexibility to continue her studies (which allowed her to enroll at University of El Salvador), promotion opportunities and even door-to-door transportation when she works the night shift.

Through this initiative, Pizza Hut—one of the USAID Program’s major partners—hired 59 youth (37 women, 22 men) from gang-prone areas in 2011. Pizza Hut’s participation in this initiative was made possible through an alliance between USAID and Corporación Franquicias Americanas (CFA), the company that owns and manages the Pizza Hut, Wendy's, Starbucks, Kentucky Fried Chicken and China Wok franchises in El Salvador. CFA directly employs approximately 3,500 people, and its partnership with USAID will allow it to identify, recruit and train at least 600 youth from San Salvador, Santa Ana and San Miguel in 2012.

Published January 2012