Brazil has emerged from the global recession as a growing, resilient economy with a low unemployment rate. Yet, in many disadvantaged neighborhoods young people lack the skills and knowledge to pursue their dreams. To transform their lives and situations, they just need access to learning and encouragement to choose a better path.
SOS Children's Villages (Aldeias Infantis) provides shelter to children at social and personal risk and empowers the communities where the Villages are located. With the adoption of the Cisco Networking Academy program, the Villages in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are helping young people join the booming economy by preparing them with much-needed technical skills and clearing a path for them to pursue.
"The economy is growing so fast," said Flavio Provedel, program manager for Cisco in Brazil. "Brazil doesn't need more engineers and doctors, it needs technical capacity. ICT is a good career path and provides a global opportunity."
SOS Children's Villages, an international organization founded in 1851, is designed to model a home life for children and strengthen the communities in which the children live. In São Paulo, the Villages has 9 houses and each house has up to 9 children and a community center. A "social mother" cares for the children as a mother would, providing encouragement and a social foundation. The Villages community center is a safe place for anyone to receive support and services.
The Cisco Academy provides students with a work model—hands-on experience with technology and in-demand skills. They become aware of all the possibilities, all the places an ICT career might take them and what new skills they need to develop. "Cisco Academy in Children´s Village gives young people a chance to get their first job, earn a bit of money, and continue to study and seek their careers," said Vanessa Tarantini, a United Nations volunteer for Cisco Networking Academy. The IT Essentials course is free to residents and local young people.
Sergio Bruno, 26, was one of the first instructors recruited and trained when the São Paulo academy opened in 2011. He grew up in the Villages, and jumped at the chance to become an instructor. Once he started teaching, he realized that he could learn as much or more by teaching others. The curriculum motivated his students, the way it had motivated him.
"The program was instrumental for me to achieve the position I have today," said Sergio, who is now a network analyst with Alpargatas, a footwear and textile manufacturer. "It opened new horizons in the professional area, now I feel that I am not allowed to think small, because I can aspire to bigger things, I can have more ambition."
To raise awareness, instructors visit local schools and introduce students to the courses. They show how these skills translate directly into jobs and a career path that is very accessible. Flavio Provedel had been a teacher for 7 years before he became a Cisco Networking Academy instructor. When 5 of his first 15 students found jobs before the course ended, Flavio was convinced of the power and potential of the program. He sees Children's Villages as a perfect way to realize the potential of young people in a supportive, constructive environment.
"This project can really change lives," he said. "A child only needs his inner strength to study and succeed once he has a path to follow. We help tie studying to success. The Networking Academy changed my life."
More than 129 young people (ages 14-21) completed the course in the first year, creating a community of skilled young people with economic opportunities. Children's Villages, like any tight-knit community, celebrates their success. "We have a lot of little graduation parties," said Vanessa."The certificate is really an accomplishment. It's not easy, it's a complicated course. When they achieve this, they realize the possibilities, no matter what their backgrounds are."
Edson Pereira Alves Reis, 26, had worked as a teacher for several years. He joined the Cisco Networking Academy program because he wanted to help students find a career path. His students are concerned about finding jobs and they believe that ICT skills will make them more marketable. "They already have some level of maturity and concern for their professional training," Edson said. "Some come without any knowledge in ICT and, by the end of the course, they are already thinking about a career in ICT."
"It is always gratifying to know that I was a part of the training," he said. "To make a difference in a life or in someone's career is always rewarding."