EL SALVADOR: Salesian Missionaries Meet to Discuss Education to Combat Growing Youth Unemployment in Latin America
(MissionNewsire) In 2015, the International Labor Organization released a report that noted there are 1.7 million unemployed people across Latin American countries. Youth are more than three times more likely to be unemployed and often lack the educational and employment opportunities necessary to escape conditions of poverty. The report notes that the labor market in Latin America will feel the impact of lackluster economic growth, giving rise to concerns that the economic progress made in the past few years could come to a halt or even be reversed.
Faced with this gloomy economic outlook, Salesian missionaries in the region want to ensure that services remain robust and best meet the needs of youth and the local economies. In response, VIA Don Bosco, located in San Salvador, El Salvador held a collaborative meeting in early 2016, bringing together missionaries and teachers from Salesian vocational and technical schools from El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia.
“The meeting served to share best practices and new initiatives to addressing common problems,” says Anabella Burgos, job coordinator of the Salesian-run Ricaldone Technical Institute in San Salvador, El Salvador. “We wanted to share the most significant achievements in each of the countries. After all, we want to work together, since we are all from Salesian environments and we work for youth in need.”
The meeting aimed to strengthen the services offered by the Salesian centers and focused on management capabilities and best practice, both with regard to effective strategies for employment and self-employment. The goal is to learn from programs that are working successfully and to work together to address ongoing challenges.
For example, in El Salvador close to 35 percent of the population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank. Youth in El Salvador are confronted not only with poverty, but with instability, high levels of violence and inadequate access to educational opportunities. Despite ranking high for economic indicators, the need for practical education in the country is more important than ever with 12 percent of youth ages 15-24 unemployed and 41 percent underemployed.
El Salvador is also one of the most violent countries in Central America, along with Honduras and Guatemala. The murder rate in El Salvador rose more than 44 percent in the beginning months of 2014 when compared to the same time last year. Gang violence is a leading cause of violence in the country and it’s estimated that some 60,000 young people have gang affiliation. Gang involvement often offers a sense of family and belonging that counters the lack of education and employment opportunities offered in the country.
Within the country, Salesian missionaries operate primary and secondary schools as well as vocational, technical and university education. Don Bosco University, located in San Salvador, is working to provide opportunities for advanced education and employment for disadvantaged youth in El Salvador. Approximately 6,000 students are enrolled at the University which maintains a strong link to the local employment sector through research, technology transfer programs, continuing education courses and consultancy services. Degree programs are offered in engineering, social sciences, humanities, economics, technology and aeronautics, among others. Don Bosco University was the first university accredited at a national level that is part of the worldwide Salesian University Network.
International Labour Organization – Unemployment rate in Latin America and the Caribbean could rise 0.2 percentage point