This issue of The Job looks at a new tech training hub in Brazil that brings together employers, local government, and short-term certificates to connect underserved students with jobs. Also, a nonprofit group’s experienced take on mentoring programs.
Hybrid Learning With Big Tech Certs
Severe wealth and income disparity. Education systems that disadvantage low-income students. Huge wage gaps between workers with and without college degrees. Low participation in vocational education. Large numbers of young people who are unemployed and not enrolled in college.
The problems Brazil faces with its approach to education and job training are familiar on many levels to what the U.S. is grappling with, but more extreme. For example, just 18% of adults in the nation hold a college credential, less than half the average of 39% among the 39 OECD countries.
Talent shortages also have spiked in Brazil, particularly for IT and tech roles. To try to tackle these problems, a creative experiment to prepare workers for tech jobs has emerged in Porto Alegre, the capital and largest city in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.
The Instituto Caldeira is a nonprofit tech and innovation hub founded two years ago by 42 major companies. It currently includes 500 members stretching across several industries, startups, government, universities, investors, and Big Tech companies. Last year, the education campus at the hub launched a tech training program for students and recent graduates from public high schools, the vast majority of whom do not attend college.
“The gap here is so big,” says Felipe Amaral, director of the Campus Caldeira, the education platform of the Instituto Caldeira. “The majority of the population just needs an opportunity.”
An initial cohort of 750 young people enrolled in the pilot training program, dubbed Geração Caldeira. The state government helped with student recruiting. Participants received a monthly stipend (1,500 Brazilian reals) and 500 hours of online instruction over roughly two months. The five education tracks were anchored around Big Tech certificates—from AWS, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, and Oracle.
Amaral says AWS and Oracle are sponsors of the program. “We select the ones that provide the opportunity,” he says of the certificates offered.
The training included weekly in-person learning immersion at the physical campus, as well as meetings and interviews with the hub’s employer partners. (See a short video clip about the program here or below.)
“The physical space is so important,” says Amaral. “When they see the institute, they see the size of the opportunity.”
Among the initial student participants, the campus tapped 50 for a scholarship to take an in-person course before being hired by company partners. Lucas Santos, a security guard at the Instituto, enrolled in this program. After completing, he landed a job in the innovation department of SLC Agricola, an agricultural company. “Before the program, I didn’t know what I wanted for my future,” Santos said in a video interview. “People really change; things change.”
The campus has enrolled 5K students in its second cohort. Amaral says the goal is to become the nation’s biggest national hub for training and employing young people in the new economy. Brazil’s labor market gaps and relative lack of opportunities for lower-income students add plenty of urgency to that ambition.
The Instituto is seeking guidance and help from experts in the U.S. Drop me a line if you’d like an introduction to the project’s leaders.
The Kicker: “What we need is to scale it right now,” Amaral says. “Our biggest challenge is to connect and learn from other experiences around the world.”
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The Power of Networks
Awareness has grown in the pandemic’s wake about the crucial role of social capital in any effort to boost the economic mobility of low-income Americans. StreetWise Partners and its quarter century of experience with mentoring unemployed and underemployed workers could be a useful example for philanthropies and employers.
The nonprofit group has tapped 15K mentors to work with underrepresented talent in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Southeast Michigan. More than 10K mentees have participated in the program. The yearlong workforce mentoring track begins with an employer-driven curriculum of 13 weeks of training that’s designed to build professional skills, industry knowledge, and social capital.
“Social connections matter more than ever,” says Shari Krull, CEO of StreetWise Partners. “As the labor market shifts dramatically, the worth of networks only stands to grow.”
The group’s volunteer mentors help participants develop personalized career maps, résumés and cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, and interviewing skills. An employer advisory board of hiring experts helps with labor statistics and hiring trends, as well as how to update the program’s curriculum.
StreetWise Partners touts a ratio of two volunteer mentors for every participant. The group’s mentors hail from its industry partners. They meet with participants in person at corporate sites every week during the 13-week training session. For the rest of the year, volunteers are in contact on a biweekly basis—either in person or over the phone—to offer mentorship and encouragement as participants navigate job searches.
The 440 mentees who went through the program in 2021 saw their annual wages jump from an average of $11K to $54K.
Krull says the group has a wide variety of company partners. But she says midsize firms often “can engage more deeply due to the collaboration between the human resources and corporate social responsibility departments.”
A key draw for companies is direct access to an untapped pipeline of qualified, diverse talent, says Krull. Employee volunteers get mentoring experience and training on code-shifting, unconscious bias, and bridging socioeconomic divides.
The group recently announced a $1M commitment from Global Atlantic Financial Group to expand its job-placement services in NYC and to launch them in Washington. Krull says the goal is to use proactive candidate matching and hiring events to launch 1,900 careers by 2026.
Many mentor programs are too open-ended and loosely defined, says Krull, and they rely on volunteers to set the agenda. This can be a particular drag on creating strong relationships in a virtual environment.
“Organizations can overcome these barriers by taking a structured approach to their programs,” she says, “using a defined and culturally relevant curriculum designed with feedback from the community served.”
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