Governments all over the world are struggling with how to lower unemployment rates and improve the economy. In many countries, young people make up a significant portion of the unemployed, which not only impacts current economic recovery, but casts a shadow on the future. For example, according to “Opportunity for Action,” a report recently released by the International Youth Foundation (IYF), in Latin America, youth unemployment is nearly three times that of adults. These young people, aged 15 to 29, are the foundation for our future, and we must do all that we can to stabilize and fortify this foundation.
This week at Microsoft’s annual Government Leaders Forum Americas, the company is drawing attention to the growing challenge of unemployment for youth in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Thursday’s keynote, delivered by my colleague Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president of Legal and Corporate Affairs, spoke to the issue and detailed Microsoft’s commitment to creating opportunities for youth in the region through various initiatives, programs and partnerships.
One new program, which will have a substantial impact in the region, is Nuevos Empleos y Opportunidades, or NEO. Microsoft has committed $5 million to the program, which will provide job training to one million youth, and aims to place at least 50 percent of graduates in jobs. NEO is a growing initiative that partners with both the private and public sector – an important aspect of the program that aims to not only train youth but to encourage and educate governments and companies on the importance of investing in this generation. By focusing on the education and training of Latin America and the Caribbean’s youth, we are addressing an issue which runs deeper than the unemployment rate, that of the growing skills and opportunity divide. The IYF report states that less than one-half of the approximately 89 percent of young people in the region who enroll in secondary education complete it. This is a trend that must be stopped if we want to increase youth employment and ensure a better future.
Microsoft supports a number of other programs in Latin America and the Caribbean with the same overall goal – creating opportunities for youth. We announced Thursday the launch of the regional chapter of Innovate4Good@Microsoft, a community of young people who have participated in Microsoft’s youth programs that come together to serve in their communities and innovate. Microsoft’s Shape the Future program has helped more than 8 million students in the Latin American region receive digital access, a key component in bridging the digital divide that often leads to an opportunity divide. Partners in Learning is another global initiative aimed at improving teaching and learning by helping educators and school leaders connect, collaborate, create and share, and it has reached 158 million students in Latin America.
I am proud to work for a company that places such importance on youth, and encourage you to investigate Microsoft’s many other initiatives and either join us, or be inspired to make a difference in your own way. I look forward to watching the first round of NEO graduates enter the workforce and deliver real impact for a better future for all of Latin America and the Caribbean.