Argentina – Brazil – Colombia
Fortalezas: Integrating young people
into the job market
Young people in Latin America face the challenge
of structural unemployment and precarious job
situations. There are 56 million young people of
working age in the region, and they account for
nearly half of all unemployed individuals. While the
unemployment rate among 15- to 24-year-olds has
declined slightly, it remains high, particularly considering that it includes neither underemployment
nor informal employment.
Of those who are employed, 55.6 percent are working in the informal sector, with low incomes, insecure jobs and a lack of social security. The current
generation of youth is more fully integrated into
the educational system than any of its predecessors. But persistently high levels of inequality and
poverty, along with inadequate infrastructure, particularly in rural areas, are making it very difficult
to build up a high-quality educational system. As a
result, rates of grade repetition, absence and school
dropout continue to be high. Many jobs require
a high school education, although that does not
guarantee a job in the formal market. Employers
are also requiring more advanced technical skills,
as well as – in particular – improved soft skills.
The Jacobs Foundation’s Fortaleza program
The Jacobs Foundation believes that integrating
young people into the labor market – whether as
employees or self-employed — is essential if they
are to have a decent life in adulthood. Through its
many years of experience in Latin America, the
Foundation has learned that the most effective
projects combine vocational training (taking into
account the demands of the labor market), the
teaching of soft skills, psychological support and
opportunities to complete schooling. Other key
factors are the experience and professionalism of
the implementing partners on site. Accordingly,
the Jacobs Foundation also seeks to strengthen the
capacity of selected civil society organizations to
implement high-quality projects.
Project duration
Implementing partner
Fundación SES
contribution Jacobs Foundation:
2,900,000 CHF
(approx. 3.2 million USD)
contribution local partners:
1,900,000 CHF
(approx. 2.1 million USD)
Further information
The Fortaleza program
The program provides technical and financial support aimed at strengthening the internal organization of six implementing partners in Argentina,
Brazil and Colombia. It also conducts projects designed to promote labor-market integration. Over a
period of three years, those projects plan to reach a
total of 2,000 young people between the ages of 18
and 24 in both urban and rural areas.
The program is built on three pillars:
I. Strengthening institutions:
An analysis of each implementing organization
identified areas where improvements might be
made, such as organizational structure, processes, communication, networking, partnerships
and sustainability. A three-year improvement
plan has been developed and is implemented.
II. Youth integration projects:
Each organization implements a project designed to provide training for young people and
integrate them into the labor market in promising sectors of the respective region. Each year,
institutional improvements should be reflected
in the relevant projects.
III.Generating knowledge:
Knowledge transfer and the sharing of experiences and innovative approaches are a focus
of the Fortalezas program. Through a virtual
learning platform, an exchange of views and
experiences, and regional meetings, Fortalezas
encourages organizations to systematize and
document their processes and insights. The
program seeks to enhance visibility and thereby
promote replication, either by contributing to
the national or regional policy dialogue or by
scaling up efforts with the help of the private
sector or other donors.
Program objectives
The Fortaleza program facilitates:
–the development and/or revision of strategies,
communication models, partnerships and
financing strategies to ensure sustainability of
organizations and their programs;
– comprehensive projects designed to provide
participants with basic or advanced technical
training, psychological support and counseling,
as well as to help them find jobs or assist them
in establishing their own microenterprises;
Jacobs Foundation
Seefeldquai 17
P.O. Box
ch-8034 Zurich
Claudia Huber
t +41 44 388 61 03
[email protected]
– cooperation with new partners from the private
and public sectors with the goal of reaching a
larger number of participants through additional
funding, or contributing to the policy dialogue
by sharing successful models and experiences
(“lessons learned”);
– promoting an exchange of information and
cooperation with the private and public sectors
to encourage young people to participate in
vocational internships, to promote an exchange
of views and to achieve a better understanding of
the needs of the labor market.
Over the medium term, the program is working
toward the following targets:
–50 percent of the young people who have participated in a program will be able to find a job in the
formal economy or to establish or expand their
own microenterprises;
– 40 percent will be actively seeking work through
networks, beginning a new training course or
working toward a secondary-school degree;
– 90 percent of the young people will succeed in
strengthening their psychosocial skills and be
capable of designing a concrete plan for their
– the participating organizations will achieve
80 percent of their goals for organizational
improvement and have in place a highly effective working model, which will be constantly
improved through regular exchange, further
training and the financial support and cooperation of various parties.
Fortalezas is founded on the conviction that over
the long term, strengthening organizations’ institutional structures, and thereby improving concrete projects, is the best and most sustainable way
to integrate young people into the labor market.
Participating organizations
Colombia: Comité Departamental de Cafeteros
del Cauca, Departamento del Cauca and Microempresas de Colombia, Medellín
Brazil: Centro Cultural Escrava Anastacia, Florianópolis and Instituto o Aliança, Salvador de Bahía
Argentina: Fundación Crear, La Plata and
Fundación UOCRA, Buenos Aires
August 2014
Population (2012)
Argentina: 41.1 million
Brazil: 198.7 million
Colombia: 47.7 million
Land area
Argentina: 2,780,400 km2
Brazil: 8,514,877 km2
Colombia: 1,141,748 km2
Population between 15 and
29 Years
Argentina: 25%
Brazil: 27%
Colombia: 26%
GDP per Capita
(in PPP, in USD, 2012)
Argentina: 11,573
Brazil: 14,551
Colombia: 11,892
Human Development Index
(2012, out of 186)
Argentina: 45
Brazil: 85
Colombia: 91
The Jacobs Foundation
The Jacobs Foundation is active
worldwide in promoting child and
youth development. It was founded
in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1989 by
entrepreneur Klaus J. Jacobs. The
Jacobs Foundation allocates a budget
of approximately 40 million Swiss
francs per year to fund research
projects, intervention programs
and scientific institution. In Latin
America, the foundation has been
working for 20 years to integrate
young people from difficult social
environments into the labor market
and society at large.