Manufacturing Month Spotlight: IYF Prioritizes Gender and Social Inclusion to Support Young Adults

November 8, 2021

As we wrap up our celebrations for Manufacturing Month at the Caterpillar Foundation, we would like to recognize our partners who are empowering women to join the STEM-focused job market through a manufacturing profession. Innovative workforce development programs like the International Youth Foundation’s (IYF) vocational trainings in Latin America, equip women and girls with the necessary skills and training to be included and to compete in the 21st century workforce.

For almost 30 years, IYF has been focused on preparing young people to be productive, engaged economic actors and citizens. Across Latin America, unemployment, and a lack of education among young people is a critical problem – and has been since before the COVID-19. In Brazil, 10 million young people ages 14 to 29 have not finished 9th grade, and in Panama, youth unemployment is at 25%.

Currently, many young people in Latin America are employed in sectors that pay lower wages and have fewer opportunities for advancement, thus leaving them with reduced economic prospects, perpetuating a low-income economic cycle. At the same time, individuals from low-income families are reluctant to pursue technical education because they cannot afford university. Through its initiatives, IYF seeks to disrupt the cycle by improving skills alignment and equipping young people to effectively contribute to a workplace, thrive in self-employment, or succeed in an entrepreneurial venture. IYF teaches students skills that align with the most relevant and profitable in-country sectors: advanced manufacturing, agriculture, automotive, IT and logistics. 

International Youth Foundation (IYF)
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International Youth Foundation (IYF)
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International Youth Foundation (IYF)
International Youth Foundation (IYF)

Educational inequities based on marginalization can have a direct impact on a young person’s personal motivations, voice, economic opportunity, and other life outcomes. IYF’s Gender Equity and Social Inclusion (GESI) policy reflects the organization’s strong commitment to improving gender equality and social equity through its programming. IYF’s programs seek to impact an estimated 12,000 young women by 2024, which represents a little over 43% of the total youth reached. Additionally, IYF’s programs thus far have supported 207 female teachers in Brazil, Mexico, Panama, and Peru. To support all young people in realizing the future they want, students must have teachers and mentors that reflect all types of populations.

Adriana was a young female student that went through IYF’s program. At 18, she was routinely overlooked by potential employers that were always looking for candidates with more skills and experience. Often, companies would deny Adriana a job opportunity and tell her she could not do the job because she was a woman. This motivated her to enroll in a welding course provided by IYF, and because of the training that Adriana received, she was hired by a company that valued her skills and abilities. Adriana is now happily working at Miguma Inc. as a computer numerical controlled (CNC) machine operator – the only woman in that position. “With all the knowledge I have now, I feel more self-confident,” said Adriana. “It really gave me a new outlook on my ability to teach and transmit my knowledge. Above all, it opened up doors for me professionally and socially.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of everyone’s economic futures – and women are at the forefront of employment barriers. At 23, Karina’s plans suddenly changed when her husband passed away after contracting COVID-19, leaving Karina with a baby, and no job. She had very little work experience, so Karina turned to online opportunities, and found the EquipYouth program. During the course, Karina completed a technical training, a socio-emotional skills training, and prepped and rehearsed for job interviews. “I’ve learned so much during my training,” said Karina. “I feel like I’m prepared to start looking for a job and now I feel more confident in myself, and I know I can achieve my goals.”

We know that women make up the next generation of innovators and creators, and through partners like IYF, we are helping women access professional equity, find financial independence, and advance their economic opportunities. After four years, the partnership between the Caterpillar Foundation and IYF has reached thousands of people in 14 countries with programming that prepares them for productive livelihoods and fulfilling adult lives. Caterpillar Foundation’s data-driven problem-solving approach, signature partners and commitment to workforce development around the world, coupled with IYF’s experience, technical experience and portfolio of proven tools and methods form the basis of a powerful collaboration capable of transforming the workforce development landscape. The Caterpillar Foundation is grateful for the chance to partner with IYF to create a promising economic future for the next generation.