Miguel Rosales has tackled the massive problem of youth unemployment in Venezuela by "segmenting the market" and abandoning the "one size fits all" approach of many traditional government-sponsored employment training programs. Instead, Miguel has created a comprehensive program which recognizes the diverse interests and potential of young people and channels them to appropriately matched workplace training opportunities, from apprenticeship programs, to training in basic office skills and information systems, to small business entrepreneurship.
The New Idea
For years, youth unemployment has risen while Venezuela's economy languished in a prolonged recession. What few programs exist do a poor job of reaching the over 2 million unemployed between the ages of 15-24. The majority of existing government training programs do not have job placement components. Miguel's contribution to the employment landscape has been the insight that to generate jobs, one has to think creatively, identifying the appropriate opportunities for a diverse potential workplace, and not try to fit all unemployed youth into one-sized training programs. Miguel's "youth market segmentation" program provides a continuum of employment-related services specifically geared towards helping unemployed, idle youth in Venezuela find the appropriate opportunities to become productive. A first and critical step in his program is bringing in young people for an initial assessment of their skills and the opportunities for them. Based on this assessment, his program then divides these young people into subsets by interest, skills and potential which determine the type of training and on-going support services they will receive. In developing this program, Miguel has been very market focused - constantly tracking the changes in the job landscape and looking at where the best opportunities are. In a country suffering from a prolonged recession, he is placing emphasis on self-employment possibilities, as well as developing a special niche within the growing social sector for job placement.
Venezuela is currently facing its worst and most prolonged recession in decades. There are two million young people between the ages of 16 and 24, representing 28 percent of this age group and 9 percent of the total population of Venezuela, who are unemployed and not attending school. Though there is a National Job Training Program for Unemployed Youth in Venezuela, according to Miguel, this program does not provide an outlet for the youth once they have completed training. The government has only recently started to work with Miguel's organization to request their assistance in developing a job placement component to their training programs.
The recession has been reflected in a decline in many traditional employment positions, leaving self-employment as a critical source for income generation and productivity. Nonetheless, many young people with the capacity and skills to run their own businesses, lack the financial means and technical and moral support that they need to be able to do so successfully. Few training programs for youth in Venezuela take this entrepreneurial potential into account and remain focussed on basic technical training.
In 1992 Miguel began to focus on a "standard" professional training program. Shortly thereafter he embarked upon placement services and converted EFIP (Equipo de Formación, Información, y Publicaciones or Training, Information and Publication Team) into placement specialists. This specialty remains one of their distinctive traits. They have trained close to 2000 young people on-site and have referred thousands of others to different training agencies. Over the years they have maintained between a 50 to 70% success rate of job placement. In 1996, after analyzing the needs and market demand in Maracaibo, Venezuela's second largest city, Miguel created an apprenticeship program mainly within the growing areas of painting and construction. Since that time they have grown the program from one community to twelve and have placed 210 young people in businesses. The majority of the original apprentices are now working with these businesses as paid employees or have begun their own businesses.
The employment training and self-employment programs all incorporate three main components: assessment & education, training, and on-going support. When young people step in the door of EFIP they first go through an assessment to determine their needs and abilities. This assessment helps determine what track of training they will enter, specific job skills or entrepreneurship. The assessment continues throughout the various training components. Training happens through the apprenticeship program which places young people in technical businesses, such as the construction industry or through on-site training in the highly marketable skills of computer technology, information and office systems. Miguel has created a special niche in job placement within NGOs, that typically cannot pay the same wages that businesses can and therefore more readily accept younger, less experienced labor. EFIP has established a strong reputation with this growing sector in Venezuela. Those young people who demonstrate a strong desire to run their own business, a risk-taking ability and the independence and maturity to do so, will enter the self-employment micro-enterprise training program. (Conversely, those who do not demonstrate these abilities will be encouraged to join the other job training and placement programs.) This program brings youth into a personalized multi-stepped process, including personal development, assessment of specific needs and skills, visualization of business ideas, access to micro-credit and technical assistance for starting up the business. There is additional follow-up assessment and advice once the businesses are up and running.
One of the most innovative among the continuum of services that Miguel is promoting is the development of business incubators for small businesses owned and operated by young people. Though within Venezuela there are business incubators for the high-tech industry, there are none specifically geared towards young people and the promotion of self-employment as an option to unemployment and idleness among this sector. Miguel is currently in negotiations with a PVDSA, one of Venezuela's most important petroleum companies for the provision of physical space for the first incubator program. The program will provide youth-run businesses with access to shared, on-site services such as, administrative assistants, accounting, equipment (fax, copy machine, printers etc.), marketing information, technical training. The incubator businesses will also become part of EFIP's already existing apprenticeship program, providing more placement and training opportunities to other young people, while supplying new businesses with no- or low-cost help. Miguel hopes to demonstrate within two years the feasibility of youth business incubators and take advantage of alliances with other organizations to create more incubators. He also plans to create a network of young people owned and managed businesses with those who participate in the program. The members will support each other in their work and support other young people by hiring them as apprentices or in beginning level positions. They will also serve as future trainers.
Miguel recognizes that EFIP cannot place large quantities of young people in jobs on their own. Over the last two years he has built relations with other employment agencies throughout Venezuela. EFIP makes referrals to various organizations and they refer clients to EFIP as well. There are also 14 job training programs which have requested EFIP's help in integrating job placement programs in their agencies as well. The government sponsored training program which reaches 10% of Venezuela's youth has expressed particular interest in having EFIP help them structure a job placement plan to accompany training programs in other states of Venezuela. Earnings from job placement, training fees and micro-credit program finance 30% of EFIP's total program. Miguel is working to gradually augment this income through EFIP's increased services.
EFIP has close relationships with youth employment organizations in Peru and Colombia and will tap into this network to spread their ideas. They have also had work exchanges with a Jesuit-related Spanish employment agency geared towards youth. This organization gave EFIP funds to develop their micro-credit and apprentice program so that they could then study the model Miguel was developing and replicate it within their own programs in Spain.
Miguel studied in a Jesuit high school, which instilled in him a desire to help the underprivileged people in his country. Though he was officially studying electronics, his interests were more social. He organized low-income youth groups at high school that he would go take on camping expeditions. In his second to last year of high he began to see that creating effective tools for communication was a critical step in the development of under-served populations. He came across EFIP and with a group of peers lobbied for and received EFIP's support for the establishment of a student newspaper. When he went on to college to study social work, Miguel made a commitment to continue supporting young people, volunteering during his weekends through EFIP and working at night to cover the cost of his studies.
In 1982 Miguel was offered a job at the Federal Reserve Bank in their human resources department. He worked there for 9 years, throughout which he remained an active volunteer within EFIP. His contact with the youth groups and his professional experience allowed him to more clearly identify needs and develop strategies for training and job placement for young people who were abandoning the public educational system for economic reasons. In 1991, as his volunteer activities began to take up more and more of his time, Miguel determined to put his complete effort into his work with young people. He left his lucrative position at the Bank and began to work full time as director of EFIP. He was joined by two of his colleagues who also quit the Bank to work for EFIP. The founders of EFIP are no longer managing it and Miguel is the strategic visionary for the organization. Miguel is a firm believer in the entrepreneurial character and capacity of young people from low-income backgrounds. He sees his job as helping to develop the opportunities for them to act on this capacity and is responsible for changing EFIP's mission to include the promotion of self-employment for young people.