A Head Start on Success in Cartagena
Gerardo Maza, 21, knew that he would need an education to support his family in Cartagena, Colombia. In his financial situation, he knew that attending university was out of reach. But a program developed through a partnership between PADF and Citibank trained Gerardo and other young Colombians to begin their careers in Cartagena's thriving tourism economy.
In the neighborhood of Olaya Herrera in Cartagena, Gerardo is one of 120 young Colombians who were taught the technical skills needed in order to get better paying, more stable jobs. The goal was to create better lives for themselves and their families.
"The program has fulfilled my expectations and those of my classmates. Thanks to entities like Citigroup, we have the means to move our families forward," said Gerardo, with a smile.
This program is an example of how PADF brings together the public and private sectors to create sustainable opportunities.
With funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development, PADF implemented the Cartagena program in coordination with the nonprofit Fundación Granitos de Paz and support from Colombia's National Training Service (SENA), the only state-run institution in Colombia that offers free vocational training to prepare students for skilled careers.
The training program has three main components: health, technical training and income generation.
Technical training in restaurant and hotel work allowed participants to develop labor skills, generate greater incomes, and improve their lives by working with the Colombian Association of Hotels (COTELCO), a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening the country's growing and important tourism industry.
But the program did more than provide technical skills to help participants find work in the short-term. The program's comprehensive approach supplied the abilities and knowledge that allow participants to form a life-long link to the professional world.
Citibank employees volunteered to teach classes on customer service, teamwork and workplace culture, among others.
And with bilingual instruction, these young people can carry out all of the duties required of them in the tourism sector, including conducting fluent English conversations with foreign visitors.
Participants also gained a boost in self-esteem as they built skills and continued improving them through education.
Gerardo is sure he has embarked upon an excellent career.
"We are surprised and enthusiastic about the program, enough so that many of us want to start our own businesses," he added.
In addition to providing training, the program equipped participants to fulfill their own entrepreneurial ambitions. Several did start up their own small businesses, including "Parkids," which operates amusement parks, "Banhotelcoop," which works in catering and hotels, and "Rapidely," which sells frozen treats.