NEO Job Training Set to Reach 1 Million Latin American Youth

By Martha J. Frase Feb 9, 2016
Three years after its creation, the New Employment Opportunities (NEO) alliance is improving the employability of poor and vulnerable youth in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Launched in 2012, NEO is a groundbreaking multisectoral partnership of major corporations, civil society, academia and the public sector that offers job training and placement services to young people throughout the region. When it began, 1 in 5 young people in Latin America and the Caribbean were neither at work nor in school. Today, the initiative is on track to achieve its target of reaching 1 million youth with work preparedness programs by 2022, according to its founders, the Multilateral Investment Fund (a member of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group), the International Youth Foundation and five of the region’s leading employers: Arcos Dorados, Caterpillar, CEMEX, Microsoft and Wal-Mart. The IDB’s Social Sector division has played a key role in bringing government agencies into the partnership.

NEO currently has programs running in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. These efforts cover a wide range of services, from online learning in Brazil to career counseling and job placement in Panama. By the time they are completed, current NEO projects will offer employability services to a projected 382,000 youth, and the initiative continues to expand.

“NEO is improving job opportunities for young people in a region where 32 million youth are neither at work nor in school,” said IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno. “Thanks to our work with companies, governments and civil society, we are making a difference in 10 countries.” He added that new programs are getting underway in Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Jamaica, Peru and Uruguay this year.

In addition to reaching hundreds of thousands of young people directly, NEO has mobilized hundreds of companies, public-sector agencies and nongovernmental organizations to join the alliance. By the end of 2014, 2,000 companies had committed to offering internships and jobs to poor and vulnerable youth, and 159 service providers had committed to improving their education services.

Businesses in the region benefit from NEO projects by gaining access to new sources of training that meet their needs, access to a more qualified workforce, increased productivity, a conduit for greater influence on public policy and recognition for their social responsibility. “This project is beneficial to both youth and employers because of the win-win relationship,” said Aida Josefina Puello, president of the Dominican Association of Human Resources and Central America and Caribbean Area Vice President of the World Federation of People Management Associations. “Businesses are able to obtain more qualified and talented employees who have greater commitment and therefore work more productively with better results. NEO projects will continue to bring more and better training programs to communities that put youth on the career ladder, and, in the end, the local and global community will benefit from a more sound and professional society and an improved job market.”

“One of the obstacles to achieving inclusive economic growth is the imbalance in the development of labor and life competencies—something that is having an impact on the young,” said Panama’s labor minister, Luis Ernesto Carles. “That’s why we value the implementation of NEO in Panama as a specific contribution to increasing employment in this segment of our country’s population.”

After hearing about NEO at her church, 21-year-old Mileidy Urrutia Mosquera took part in a cash registry training course at Luis Amigó University Institute in Apartadó, Colombia. “They told me what it was about and that [the local NEO project] had tailor-made courses. So I signed up for the course and now I’m grateful for the opportunity I was given. I got this job thanks to NEO and the training they gave me, and now I can help out at home. I was very lucky because [through] NEO I found this supermarket and got some work experience. By chance, somebody resigned after I started my work placement and they hired me instead.”

Over the next five years, NEO’s goals are to strengthen the capacity of 200 job service providers; prepare 500,000 poor and vulnerable youth (ages 16 to 29) for the labor market, and ensure that 50 percent or more of the youth trained are young women; mobilize 1,000 companies to offer internships and employment opportunities for youth; and achieve job placement rates of 50 percent for program graduates.

So far, more than US$98 million has been approved for NEO projects. To learn more about NEO, visit

Martha J. Frase is Managing Editor of WorldLink. Republished by permission from the World Federation of Personnel Management Administrators.


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