Education

Here's how Latin American communities are bridging the skills gap

Schoolchildren use their laptops outside school in Laguna de Apoyo, Granada, Nicaragua.

Civil society has a role to play in closing the skills gap in Latin America. Image: REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

Christopher Worman
Co-Founder, Chief Partnership and Strategy Officer, Connect Humanity
Hector Mujica
Regional Manager, Google.org
Melissa Huerta
Senior Program Officer, Mozilla Foundation
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • Closing the skills gap in areas such as Latin America will require cross-sector effort.
  • Community-based organizations in civil society have been contributing to the development of future workforces within their countries.
  • There is a lack of understanding about why these programmes are successful, or where to find them.

McKinsey estimates one-third of humanity will be in a different job by the end of the decade. According to the World Bank Enterprise Surveys, 31.6% of companies in Latin America struggle to find qualified workers, higher than the global average. A recent study by the Inter-american Development Bank cites that only 30% of children in third and fourth grade actually meet the minimum benchmark for critical skills required in the digital era. And in its Future of Jobs Report, the World Economic Forum highlights that reskilling and upskilling will be essential in order to prevent “undesirable lose-lose scenarios at the national level: technological change accompanied by talent shortages, mass unemployment and growing inequality”.

While estimates about how jobs are likely to change vary wildly, it's clear the future of work means some jobs will disappear and new ones will be created.

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Overcoming the challenge, particularly in regions like Latin America where talent gaps are the largest in the world, will require significant and cohesive efforts across the non-profit, government and business sectors – respecting and leveraging each sector for its strengths, while working together to understand how we manage equitably and inclusively.

While significant literature exists on the roles of industry and government in addressing these challenges, the impact of work lead by civil society is often invisible. Civil society is providing key solutions in partnership with other stakeholders through digital capacity-building programmes, community-driven approaches and project-based work. Community-based organizations have been contributing to the development of future workforces within their countries, with significant investments from philanthropy, industry and government. For example:

Connecting the unconnected. Thankfully, there are numerous creative, effective, cross-sector partnerships already underway that offer insight into how we might best move forward. Mozilla, for instance, has been working to ensure everyone can get online as economies digitize; supporting new approaches to overcoming connectivity challenges and promoting work by organizations like Rhizomatica who, working with regulatory frameworks and communities alike, connect communities previously unconnected due to location or poverty.

Building pathways. Google.org has been working to ensure vulnerable and under-represented communities, including youth, women and indigenous groups, have the opportunity to build technical skills and increase access to training pathways into the digital economy. Google supports programs that provide baseline digital skills, soft skills and job readiness training, supporting NGOs like Laboratoria to ensure women have access to digital skills training and jobs – more than 70% of their graduates land technical jobs. Google is also working with civil society to bring the IT Support Professional Certificate to Latin America, complemented with wrap-around support to engage the most vulnerable populations with pathways to IT jobs.

Preparing cultures for disruptions: Beyond new skills, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may require considering a new social contract. Successfully negotiating such a contract will require both understanding changes and trustable forums for formulating a response. TechSoup and its global Partner Network have been working with grassroots civil society organizations around the world to begin building communities of practice who, through developing technologies and trainings with their own communities, become not only more savvy technologists, but stakeholders in developing an appropriate internet with and for those they serve. Ultimately, these communities might create the space for citizens, governments and corporations alike to understand what values they must grow or defend as the Fourth Industrial Revolution disrupts their way of life.

Worldwide skills shortages, including Latin American countries (percentage of formal firms experiencing difficulty filling jobs, 2015)
Worldwide skills shortages, including Latin American countries (percentage of formal firms experiencing difficulty filling jobs, 2015) Image: Manpower Group

Efforts like these, and countless others led by community-based organizations around the world, highlight the flexibility of the sector and opportunity to test and learn in the face of massive challenges. So how can government and industry leaders work with the sector to strengthen the future of work agenda? There seems to be a persistent lack of knowledge across and between sectors about what makes these programmes successful, how they are structured and judge success, how to form and foster the partnerships that drive them, or where one might go to learn and get started modeling a programme that is relevant.

As part of the World Economic Forum’s initiative on Partnering with Civil Society in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Forum has convened a working group co-chaired by Google.org, Mozilla and TechSoup to capture how various stakeholders have been partnering with civil society in the future of work, mainstreaming knowledge and creating shared evidence for concrete opportunities for collaboration, and addressing the effects of new technologies.

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What is civil society?

Together with stakeholders from governments, corporations and civil society, we will focus our efforts on a series of learning sessions across Latin America – from which we hope to derive and share best practices, help contextualize our learnings for stakeholders, and generally demystify approaches to equitably overcoming our collective challenge in preparing for the future of work.

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Related topics:
EducationDavos AgendaEconomic ProgressFuture of Work
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