Like anywhere else, teenagers in rural Guatemala dream of becoming engineers, doctors, teachers, businessmen and much more. However, the lack of access to quality education, social services and job opportunities, the possibilities for realising their dreams are limited. In Guatemala, nearly 60% of child labour is in agriculture and many of the tasks are hazardous, including handling dangerous tools, harmful pesticides or carrying heavy loads.
Improving access to decent work and better job opportunities for farming communities can keep young people away from work which puts their health, safety, education and development at risk. Job skills training and subsidised internships are offering young people new opportunities to use their talents and increase their chances to reaching their ambitions through the EEMPATA Rural Training Project.
Since 2013, the ECLT Foundation has worked with our implementing partner Defensa de Niñas y Niños International, Costa Rica to help young people in San José La Maquina, Guatemala to improve their possibilities for employment that is fair, safe, equal and with open working conditions. The EEMPATA Rural Training Model provides young people between 14 and 18 with skills tailored to local job markets and help them build a career path with market-driven skills.
Building Market-Driven Skills
Vocational Training offers a variety of classes spanning from computer skills to entrepreneurship, sewing and safe, lucrative farming techniques. These skills have been carefully identified by the local community and employers tailored to the local job market to increase the chances of future employment.
Students in San José, La Maquina are also taking part in communications training to develop concrete skills opening the doors to new and exciting professional opportunities. Learning how to build a storyline, identify and create key messaging, draft blogs and articles, carry out investigations and interviews, take journalistic photos, facilitate an editorial board and finally eye-catching layout techniques are skills are useful skills for employment. EEMPATA is not only keeping young people in education and away from dangerous work, it is also providing them with new prospects and skills for a brighter future in work.
Voices of Rural Youth
Voices of EMPATA also gives the students a platform to share local news, and their thoughts and opinions on topics which are important to them, including cultural, social events and political, economic challenges such as child labour. Besides building skills, the students developed their own voice during the process, putting into words what matters to them and how they experience challenges faced within the community.
The Course is designed in a way to give the students practical, hands-on experience. An example of this in the Voices of EEMPATA magazine, designed, drafted and created by the students to demonstrate their new learnt skills.
Promoting Equal Opportunities
One of the drivers of child labour is lack of opportunities for young people and adults to access a decent job. Poor job opportunities in rural areas mean that families trapped in poverty depend on the extra income of their children. The ILO says that parents are less likely to involve their children in work and invest in their education when there is a greater opportunity for a decent job . To break the cycle of child labour young people should be prepared for the skills in-demand in the local job market.
The harsh reality for many teenagers in farming communities in Guatemala is that they do not have the skills or opportunities to discover new career paths. Sometimes, the limited career choices drive teenagers to see less value in going to school. By offering youth the possibility to learn and explore market-driven skills through Vocational Trainings and Subsidised Internships EEMPATA creates equal opportunities for young people in rural areas.
Looking ahead: a Model for Sustainable Progress
The EEMPATA Rural Training Project has now been implemented in San José La Maquina. Roles and responsibilities have been handed over to national and local authorities and the community, securing the continuation of the Rural Training Model. However, our job is not done yet. Next step is to build partnerships with local businesses and authorities to support graduates transitioning from school to job-market, ensuring job-placement and lasting chance for the students, their families and the community.
The ECLT Foundation is currently working on transforming the EEMPATA Project into a replicable model, promoting equal and decent work opportunities for youth in Guatemala and throughout the Central American region.