In the poorer urban areas of Northern Mexico, young people who lack traditional job skills are often tempted by drug cartels and youth gangs to pursue careers in narcotics and crime. But a program that teaches IT and business skills gives students a place to pursue education, find better opportunities, and help heal their communities.
The Issue: Crime and violence limit opportunities for young people
In especially hard-hit areas like Monterrey, drugs and violence may seem like the only option for many young people. At the same time, employers are struggling to find people qualified to fill the IT and networking jobs needed to move the city forward.
- There are over 1600 gangs in Monterrey with over 35,000 members (Secretary of Public Security, Mexico City, 2010)
- One Monterrey neighborhood, Independencia, is home to at least 2 drug cartels and as many as 13 youth gangs (The Economist, 2013)
- 37% of Mexico’s companies are having difficulty finding certified IT professionals – the highest in Latin America (IDC 2013)
- Mexico’s demand for skilled IT workers outstrips supply by more than 40%, meaning 4 in every 10 available positions goes unfilled (IDC 2013), and this hampers growth
The Solution: A safe place for at-risk youth to gain skills
The ICT Networking and Entrepreneurship Skills Development program helps at-risk youth withstand the pressures of crime and violence. It teaches them skills that can lead to better job opportunities and positive contributions to their communities.
- A partnership between Cisco Mexico, USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and the nonprofit World Learning, the program focuses on the U.S.-Mexico border cities of Monterrey, Tijuana, and Ciudad Juárez
- The 2-pronged program offers Cisco Networking Academy courses at public high schools, which prepare students for meaningful careers as computer-networking professionals, plus a series of entrepreneurship workshops
- In the first 2 years (2012-2014), 1100 students completed the program, exceeding the goal by 66%
- Nearly 52% of participants were women
Learning IT and business skills gives at-risk students positive alternatives to criminal activity and fosters stronger communities. For example, Luis Fernandez of Monterrey had been expelled from three high schools and often had police officers knocking at his door. But after taking Networking Academy courses he landed a job at an IT company and earns extra money repairing computers. He hopes to attend university and start his own business.
- Local universities have responded by promising scholarships to program graduates
- The local government in Ciudad Juárez has opened a business incubator that helps bring student business plans to life
- The federal government, impressed by the initiative’s success, hopes to expand the program and replicate it across the country
“Without this opportunity I might still be with my old friends, doing nothing, and doing no good. Today, I feel so proud of myself that I can contribute at home.” Student Luis Fernandez