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Youth, Accessibility, and Employability in Latin America

Since the early 1990s, there has been an increasing interest and investment in information and communication technology (ICT) training centers designed to expand employability options for socially excluded groups in Latin America.

This study examines programs that provide basic computer training for people with disabilities and at-risk youth. Based on primary research in five countries (Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Venezuela), it explores the landscape of issues around technology and employability and investigates how ICT training impacts the employability concerns of two populations with diverse needs and histories of social and economic exclusion.

Findings are broadly divided into three segments:

1.) Environmental factors that impact such projects, including the aspirational environment and the discourse of technology;
2.) Short-term impacts of these programs, including the creation of pathways to employment, community-building, as well as impacts on self-esteem and stigmatization and the potential of mismatched employment expectations from access to these programs; and
3.) Factors that influence the success of such programs including cost, certification, and accessible technology

Context

  • Background

Information and communications technology (ICT) skills are often cited as a means to
empower marginalized populations. Over the
last decade, technology training programs have
been established throughout Latin America
to promote employability, competitiveness,
and social inclusion. This study examines
the technological and socio-economic issues
that shape the relationship between community technology centers and employability
for two distinct groups: 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?


Project Design

  • Overview

Centers were selected to ensure comparable
size, programming, client populations, and
funding sources. In Brazil and Guatemala we
sampled centers serving at-risk youth. In
Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela, and Ecuador
we sampled centers targeting people with
disabilities. Using a snowball sampling method
beginning with Microsoft Community Affairs
and POETA grantees, we conducted 130
semi-structured interviews with program
participants, family members, program
administrators, government officials, and
employers at 27 technology centers between
February and July 2009.


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