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In El Salvador, Facebook subscribers “like” project workforce development efforts

Carlos Marroquin, Communications Manager for the USAID Program to Improve Access to Employment, says "We are successfully using Facebook as a meeting place for our target audience and a space where we share information on the subject that concerns us all: employment.”Carlos Marroquin, Communications Manager for the USAID Program to Improve Access to Employment, says "We are successfully using Facebook as a meeting place for our target audience and a space where we share information on the subject that concerns us all: employment.”Talk about your social impact: In El Salvador, USAID’s Program to Improve Access to Employment (managed by CARANA) is setting new standards for magnifying its workforce development efforts through social media. When 2012 started, the program’s Facebook page had 113 subscriptions (“likes” in Facebook lingo). As of the end of June, “likes” have surged to 13,000, thanks to the program’s online interaction with beneficiaries.

The first step to Program Communications Manager Carlos Marroquin’s proactive social media strategy was making content more atractive and useful. The previously text-heavy layout is livened up with video testimonials and photo collages of participants, as well as interviewing and résumé-preparing tips for job seekers. To get the word out about this resource, the project made a small financial commitment of $10 a day to run ads within Facebook and attract attention to the page.

The project’s Facebook page now houses free announcements of upcoming job and professional development opportunities to draw in potential project participants. Three to four times a month, the project hosts open audition-style gatherings where people can enter free pre-training programs to build their “soft,” personal communications skills, after which they are invited to interview with a designated employer. On average, 25 people attend each gathering—six of whom learned about it on Facebook. Marroquin calls the platform his “main information and summoning tool.”

The page is also helping the project cement relationships with organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of El Salvador and the Development Bank of El Salvador, which forward its postings to their own subscribers. Individuals do the same; for example, 18 people shared the announcement of Walmart’s career fair with their own networks, widening outreach exponentially.

Hear Alexander’s story (in Spanish) of how the USAID program’s use of social media helped him find employment at Pollo Campero, a popular fast-food chain.

Project Director Beto Brunn says the page allows them to more directly inform youth—especially those at-risk—about employment opportunities: “We need to give them hope, and the new media allows those we are benefitting to share their stories. The general message is that there are good options that can help high school graduates with few prospects for university find work and a meaning for their lives.”

Brunn added that the page is also helping break down employer myths. “In San Miguel, for instance, the business consensus is that youths don’t want to work because they are receiving remittances,” he says. The program organized a recruiting event to find cell phone salespeople, advertised through a Facebook post seen by 3,800 people across the nation. “We hoped perhaps 40 youths would come; 76 actually arrived—to the amazement of everyone. We had to move into the backyard.”

The USAID Program to Improve Access to Employment strengthens El Salvador’s workforce by developing the skills the labor market demands, particularly for youth and marginalized populations. Before engaging the public in an open conversation about the project, USAID’s program tested the waters of social media with Joven360, an online platform it developed to help undergraduate youth obtain their first professional experience through posted internships and job applications.

USAID’s Program to Improve Access to Employment is now experimenting with Twitter (@AccesoEmpleo) where it already has almost 250 followers.

Published July 2012