Gonzalo Garrido, 26, has been a coordinator and student advisor at a trade school in the city of Libertador General San Martín in Argentina for five years. Many of the 300 students at the school are his age, but he has also taught students as young as 15 and as old as 60 from all walks of life. Some have been victims of drug addiction, bullying and even gang violence. All are looking to learn new skills for a competitive job market. A trade offers them a new career and a chance at a brighter future.
With the support of the private agro-industrial company Ledesma, the school where Gonzalo works is able to offer free industry-recognized technical education that helps students increase their employability and brighten their career prospects. Gonzalo received training on work-based learning and school-industry collaboration through a U.S. Department of Labor-funded Promoting Apprenticeship as a Path for Youth Employment Project.
The project worked directly with employers, workers' organizations, and governments to help increase the number of apprenticeship opportunities for vulnerable youth in Argentina as well as in Costa Rica and Kenya. It helped develop market-driven work-based learning programs and train teachers, like Gonzalo, on how to bridge the skills gap between companies looking for skilled employees and disadvantaged youth looking for jobs. When young people are able to gain skills and access decent work, they are less likely to be exploited or engaged in forced labor. They are more likely to go on to be economically secure as adults.
Gonzalo considers work-based learning a valuable pathway that prepares learners for the real labor market and complements their classroom-based learning. He knows he is helping shape young citizens and giving them skills that will allow them to face challenges of the future.
Gonzalo’s wish for his students is that they learn the virtue of being patient and persistent with their projects, no matter the obstacles they encounter in life because there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, he says.
"Being a change-maker is no easy job," he says and often tells his students. "One can only succeed by being confident and humble."
And while his students get their education for the labor market through their work-based learning, Gonzalo hopes to leave his own mark on them by building strong relationships and setting them up to succeed beyond school.