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U.S.-backed NGO using sports for job training in Uruguay and other countries in the region
State Department helps Partners of the Americas develop job skills of young people in Uruguay, Brazil and Ecuador

Posted: October 28, 2004

A group sponsored by the U.S State Department is using soccer and other team sports in a new project to help disadvantaged young people in Uruguay, Brazil and Ecuador increase their workplace skills and employment prospects, says the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

In an October 27 statement, the IDB said it is providing a $3.8 million grant to the project that will be carried out by Partners of the Americas, a nongovernmental group that promotes people-to-people cooperation between citizens in the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean. U.S. President John F. Kennedy conceived the idea for such a group in 1963. Since then, the group has received backing from the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and several other U.S. agencies.

Partners of the Americas will provide $2.5 million for the project, which will be known as "A Ganar" in Ecuador and Uruguay, and "Vencer" in Brazil (the Spanish and Portuguese words, respectively, meaning "to win"). The project involves young men and women, mainly between ages 18 and 21, in the cities of Quito, Montevideo and Rio de Janeiro, the IDB said.

The IDB said Partners of the Americas has ample experience in youth development programs and frequently teams up with major U.S. corporations interested in supporting social, economic and cultural projects in the Americas.

Unemployment rates among Brazilians, Ecuadorans and Uruguayans ages 15 to 24 are far above the workforce averages in their respective countries, and are even higher among young people from low-income households, the IDB reported, adding that business leaders in these South American nations say that young people often lack basic workplace skills that can help them find and retain jobs.

The model for the project, the IDB said, stems from the results of workshops and consultations held with youth groups, community leaders, business people, sports organizations, and local government officials, and seeks to address the problem of young people's employability.

The project will involve youths in the professional soccer "feeder" [developmental] system in Uruguay, while in Ecuador it will deal with young people in the soccer feeder system and in vocational training schools, the IDB said. The feeder system refers to developmental leagues for professional soccer. In Brazil, the IDB project will draw athletes from various organized sports including soccer, volleyball, and track and field.

Participants will receive training in a "core employability curriculum" to address such issues as the capacity to work in teams, be punctual, meet deadlines, observe workplace etiquette, and develop intrapersonal communications skills.

The project will use companies that can provide scholarships, internships, and stipends for youths in the training program. One of the project's components entails an outreach campaign to build awareness about A Ganar and Vencer, particularly through major sports events.

The IDB said the project "aims to overcome the limitations of isolated job training efforts by bringing together a range of stakeholders: local governments, chambers of commerce, private-sector companies, nonprofit organizations, and sports associations, among others."

For more information about the A Ganar/Vencer Program, please visit the Partners of the Americas website.

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