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As we’ve seen in recent posts, Latin America has a strong labor offering in terms of IT quality and technical training, but not in terms of quantity. So the region often loses out on some of the large IT contracts with multinationals that want to build rapidly scalable IT operations. Nearshore governments are now being confronted with the dilemma of attracting high tech jobs, but not having a qualified enough labor pool to do those jobs. Many have implemented strong education initiatives, but today I’d like to discuss another alternative for developing human capital. In short, governments need to partner with the private sector in educating the public.
Harnessing the power of public-private partnerships
To a certain extent, these kinds of partnerships are already happening across the Nearshore region. One great example is Brasscom, the Brazilian association of IT and communication companies. Over the years, as the Brazilian Ministry of Education has invested in technical schools and universalized education, it’s been Brasscom that has made sure the curriculum is relevant to what companies are looking for. The organization has also focused on English programs and language proficiency education across the country – something very necessary to fuel Brazil’s large sourcing market.
Another very notable private organization working to educate its people is Costa Rica’s CINDE which has created a one-year technical certificate in universities across the country to pump out hundreds of entry level computer programmers ready to be employed at firms like Intel, HP and IBM.
But by far one of the most useful initiatives are when private companies themselves, and not investment promotion agencies, get involved in the education system of a country. Last year I spoke to executives in a few companies in Mexico and Brazil who play an active role in the local universities by serving on school boards or helping to plan school curriculums and tailoring them to what the IT industry needs. In some cases, they even teach classes, as some employees from HSBC Technologies do in Curitiba, Brazil. All this helps not just to create a strong interest in IT for students, but to also show them the kinds of career opportunities and career development that the industry can provide. Over a few years, these kinds of efforts can radically change the face of technical education in Latin America.
Not an outsourcing game
Just to be clear, a ‘public-private partnership’ does not mean governments outsourcing technical education to the private sector. There needs to be real dialogue and a real focus on results, and it will not work if there is not equal commitment from both the public and private sectors.
One great example is in Panama, where the Education Minister has recently implemented a series of workshops bringing together private companies and educational institutions in order to target where students needed improvement, and ensure that companies are being supplied with the skills they need.