Cover Image
close this bookThe Transition of Youth from School to Work: Issues and Policies (IIEP, 2000, 188 p.)
close this folderChapter II. Training unemployed youth in Latin America: same old sad story? by Claudio de Moura Castro and Aimée Verdisco
View the documentIntroduction
View the document1. On the elusive art of training
View the document2. Training to improve employability: experiences from Latin America
View the document3. Lessons
View the document4. Conclusion: are youth training programmes still a good idea?

3. Lessons

3.1 What Argentina and Chile can learn from Brazil

Most observers consider Chile Joven and Proyecto Joven as vastly successful training programmes. This paper concurs with this overall assessment of two programmes in an area where failures are much more common than successes. Yet the shortcomings of the two projects cannot be ignored.

Both programmes appear to offer training of substandard quality. In the case of Argentina, one of the authors visited a number of such programmes and confirms that they are not commensurate with the country's level of development. Worse, the format of the programmes is not conducive to the kind of accumulation of experience that would lead to social learning and the progressive improvement of training. Contracts have a short life and institutions are too small - more often than not, composed of a single individual who may hire a trainer or two - to be nodes of serious learning. There thus is little reason to expect improvements as time goes on. Learning simply cannot take place.

The two 'Joven' programmes have much to learn from the long and continued experience of the older members of the 'S' system, particularly SENAI and SENAC. Cumulative experience, made possible by the continuity and stability of these institutions, has led to the continuous improvement of courses of study. Based on surveys of former graduates and contacts with enterprises, these institutions fine-tune their offerings and update their training materials and syllabi as changes in the economy and business climate dictate. Since many of the training contracts offered by PLANFOR end up in the hands of 'S' institutions, PLANFOR courses benefit from a long-established tradition of preparing courses, developing materials and training instructors. Even when the training goes to other independent institutions, chances are that some trainers will be former SENAI or SENAC trainers who bring to the classrooms and workshops similar experience. This experience has also brought a focus on basic skills - the most durable of all skills provided through the type of training programmes considered here - to PLANFOR-sponsored training courses. These factors, individually and collectively, provide PLANFOR with an intrinsic quality that appears to be missing in the Chilean and Argentinean programmes.

3.2 What Brazil can learn from Argentina and Chile

PLANFOR is a newcomer, albeit one supported by a well-established tradition and infrastructure. Created in a country with considerable experience in providing training that responds sufficiently to demand, PLANFOR emerges as an idea whose time has come. The 'S' system established an exemplary set of vocational training programmes geared towards the needs of the modern sector. Yet, as discussed above, the system hardly touched the formidable need to train those in the informal sector, small or micro enterprises, or lost somewhere in activities where little formal training is offered. The time was ripe to fill this void, and the availability of funds from FAT made the programme possible.

For reasons that are not easy to fathom, PLANFOR delivers training through mechanisms that are definite steps backwards with respect to the two 'Joven' projects (and with respect to the 'S' system rules as well). PLANFOR allocates courses on the basis of centralized procedures, with little inquiry into the realities of market demand and scant participation or input from course providers. PLANFOR thus commits the most egregious of all training errors: its high-quality training is ineffectively and inappropriately targeted; the match between the demand for training - both from the market and needy clienteles - and its supply remains loose at best.

One of the most obvious questions asked about the type of programmes examined here is whether they do indeed help trainees get and maintain jobs. As noted above, regression data (probit and logit) from the Pernambuco case indicate that those who take the training courses do not increase their chances of getting jobs (see Barros et al., n/d). In fact, their chances fall but the difference is not statistically significant. Insofar as results from the two 'Joven' projects are better, the question remains as to whether Brazil would be well advised to increase the duration of PLANFOR training. If courses are too short and their targeting is inadequate, training is not likely to be effective - even if provided in a country like Brazil where there is a long-established tradition of quality training. Indeed, issues such as these should have been taken into consideration during the preparation of PLANFOR: the programme was implemented several years after results and evaluations of the two 'Jovens' had been made available. Clearly, in these regards, Brazil can learn a lesson or two from its next-door neighbours.

3.3 Lingering dilemmas: more equity or more jobs?

The entire issue of whether programmes such as those examined here indeed favour the most deprived job candidates is no simple task. Although the programmes include built-in mechanisms to target disadvantaged youth, the doubtful reputation of this clientele is one of the main factors that make employers reticent about offering an internship. Indeed, field visits confirm that some students come to school with concealed weapons and trainers repeatedly face threats of antisocial behaviour from a small minority of trainees. Regardless of these considerations, the programmes examined here appear to have produced notable results, both in terms of targeting and in terms of employment. But gains in equity involve considerably more complex issues. By targeting unemployed youth, the programmes may be displacing older workers - e.g. those who find it more difficult to survive under unemployment and often have a family to maintain. In this respect, any gain in equity is questionable.

In addition, some evidence from Argentina and Chile questions the positive substitution effect promoted by the 'Joven' projects. In times of economic growth, large enterprises often see internships as a means to select the best new employees from a pool of candidates. Internships are a free trial run on possible future employees: someone else is doing the training and the initial selection. The left tail of the distribution thus is eliminated, and all the enterprises have to do is pick the best of the crop (see Jacinto, 1996; de Moura Castro, 1997). In contrast, when economic growth is stagnating, internships are often seen as sources of cheap semi-skilled labour. In such cases, enterprises may offer internships in areas where there are no possibilities of paid labour in the future (see Jacinto, 1996; de Moura Castro, 1997).

Training thus reverts back to its most embarrassing problem: that of training to simultaneously respond to social and to economic needs. The greater the success of the programme in finding jobs for the graduates, the greater the sacrifices in targeting the poor. The more a programme targets those who truly are the most deprived, the less it achieves in terms of finding jobs for them. Any solution is a compromise.