USAID Youth: Work Mexico program
Training helps job seekers achieve dreams
"My dream is to pursue a career in physical therapy. Several years ago, I met the son of a cousin who was born paralyzed, and that inspired me to want to help others."
When financially hard times fell on his family of 10, Cristian Alonso Chávez, from Mexico's Francisco I. Madero neighborhood in Ciudad Juarez, had to leave school to look for work, discontinuing his education after middle school.
Although Chávez, 22, had almost three years of experience as an industrial machine operator, his most recent job did not offer him any opportunities for advancement. When he tried to find new work, his low level of education and the pressing need for income always led him back to the operator job.
One night, after months looking for new work, Chávez was watching television when an interview caught his attention. Sigifredo Heras, a career counselor with a USAID-supported program, Youth: Work Mexico, was recruiting youth who wanted to better their lives and find work. Chávez went to the nearest community center and enrolled in the program's life and employability skills training.
When Chávez met with his fellow trainees on their first day in October 2012, he thought, “These youth are like me, and want to succeed.” Seeing others in the same situation made him realize the challenges they were facing: family obligations, pressure to work, and few outlets to change their current situation.
Over the course of seven weeks, Chávez began to evolve as a person and become more self-aware as he discovered his strengths and weaknesses. "I have seen many changes, from the time when I could not even turn on the computer, or knew what a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis was, to now, where I know my strengths and know how to use Microsoft Office and other skills that will help me access new job opportunities,” he reflects.
Chávez no longer sees being a machine operator as his only job option and is determined to find a position that allows him to grow professionally. Finding work is also no longer his only priority; he plans to go back to school and complete his degree.
"My dream is to pursue a career in physical therapy,” he says. “Several years ago, I met the son of a cousin who was born paralyzed, and that inspired me to want to help others. With the help of [Youth: Work Mexico], I am able to see that this dream is achievable.”
In June 2010, USAID and the International Youth Foundation launched Youth: Work Mexico, a three and a half year program to address youth challenges in Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana. Working with local civil society groups, the initiative helps create safe spaces for disadvantaged young people, strengthens and expands after-school and summer programs, and prepares youth for viable futures through self- or salaried employment. It also leverages private sector resources and expertise, and increases community involvement to help at-risk youth stay in school, and decrease their vulnerability to engage in violent or criminal activity.
Last updated: November 22, 2013