Youth, Accessibility, and Employability in Latin America

Information and communications technology (ICT) skills are often cited as a means to empower marginalized populations, particularly around acute needs such as employment. Over the last decade, technology training programs have been established a community training centers throughout Latin America to address these needs. This study examines the technological and socio-economic issues faced by two distinct groups that enroll in technology training for employability: at-risk youth and people with disabilities. Three questions framed the research: What drives users to technology centers? How do expectations of ICT trainees compare to labor market experiences reported by program graduates? What challenges do users and managers face?

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Outputs

  • Publications
  • Findings
  • Recommendations
  • Successful programs attract clients by offering valued services.

    Computers are
    widely perceived as transformative, even by
    the poorest and most disadvantaged. However, while most interviewees viewed ICTs
    as required for modern life, they associated
    use with young people. (Older respondents
    feared that they could not effectively use ICTs
    and assumed that youth could do a better
    job). In Brazil and Guatemala, interviewees
    cited technology second only to sports as an
    activity likely to attract at-risk youth away
    from illicit activities. People with disabilities
    reported being attracted to technology centers
    as spaces to build community and enhance
    self-esteem. Training programs are valued by
    both populations as sources of formal education and increased access to employment.
    At-risk youth saw technology skills training
    as a point of entry into the labor market and
    as a way to overcome stereotypes surrounding
    individuals from low-income neighborhoods.

  • Computer training can spark technology related career aspiration.

    Such aspirations
    were frequently expressed by people with
    disabilities and somewhat less by at-risk
    youth (see Figures 1&2). Among the trainees
    with disabilities, a full 50% found jobs in the
    formal sector. Of those, 40% worked at the
    technology center where they trained. Entrepreneurship, though often touted as a goal by
    program administrators, proved uncommon.

  • Employment requires more than training.

    Most interviewees were confident of the
    value of their computer training and certification, but employers were not. This limitation
    is important because access to formal jobs
    depends heavily on employer perceptions
    and social connections. Effective technology training programs reach out to employers in a variety of ways, including disability
    awareness, placement recommendations, and
    post-placement follow-up. Individuals with
    hearing or visual impairments faced significant accessibility challenges — workplaces
    lack assistive technologies and, although
    most technology centers receive donated
    productivity software, many cannot afford
    accessibility software, such as screen readers.

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  • Design programs to complement computer skills.

    Certification is most useful when the skills are relevant in the local labor-market and certificates are issued by an organization trusted by employers. For successful job outcomes, technology centers must cultivate employer relationships. Further, participants’ overall experience with centers was more positive when services went beyond ICT training, such as help with resume writing, job placement, and counseling.

  • Place representatives from target populations in leadership positions.

    Among both populations, the presence of program managers “they could identify with” enhanced participation. At-risk youth expressed encouragement when peers worked at the technology center — it showed the potential for finding work after training. Likewise, people with disabilities related better to trainers with disabilities. In a labor market where few people with disabilities have white-collar jobs, their presence as project administrators was important and symbolic — providing a model and increasing public visibility.

  • Provide long-term program support.

    Start-up funding for technology training does not guarantee self-sufficiency. Longterm support is essential, especially when sustainable revenue is not feasible because target clients cannot afford training. Support for community technology centers that provide services for people with disabilities can be seen as part of a larger effort to improve access to socio-economic rights. State funding may play a critical role.

  • Invest in accessibility research and awareness.

    We often found assistive technologies to be unreliable and unavailable. Having observed several innovative local solutions, we recommend funding small initiatives that promote local development of assistive technologies.Workplace access and regulatory compliance also needs to be improved. More coordination and collaboration among legislators and agencies already working in this space would also represents an important step.

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Media

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People & Organizations

  • Project Team
  • Participants
  • Universidad La Salle
  • Universidad Pedagógica Nacional
  • 041 CECATI 11, 65
  • Vida Independiente México ORT de Venezuela Fundación Pro-Cura de Parálisis Programa Muchacho Trabajador SECAP
  • Movimiento de Trabajadores Campesinos Enlaces Quiche Grupo Ceiba Fundabiem / Teleton Comité Pro-Ciegos/CENTIC
  • CVT Brumadinho Oxigênio
  • Projeto Quixote
  • Projeto Conte Comigo
  • IDORT
  • Associação Águios
  • ATN
  • Casa do Zezinho
  • Associação Evangélica Beneficiente
  • Codino
  • Escuelas Abiertas Co-Ed