WASHINGTON — In the next decade, six million youth will enter the Central American labor force. They will need job opportunities and the skills to succeed in them. All too often, high poverty and violence rates in El Salvador and Honduras prevent young people from learning the marketable, job-driven skills that can help them forge clear paths to decent jobs and greater economic opportunities. Without access to quality education and good jobs, these youth are vulnerable to exploitation. Their chances of thriving and building futures in their own communities are often slim.
The Obama administration has made clear that a secure, stable Central America is in the interest of the United States. Creating real economic opportunity for that region's most vulnerable youth is critical to achieving that goal. The U.S. Department of Labor is prepared to do its part.
Today, the department's Bureau of International Labor Affairs is announcing $13 million towards this effort with a call for project proposals to help at-risk youth in El Salvador and Honduras develop marketable skills and secure good employment.
President Obama announced the new funding yesterday as part of a $68 million commitment to the region's youth at a town hall with young leaders in Kingston, Jamaica.
The Project to Promote Youth Employment through Employer Partnerships in El Salvador and Honduras will build partnerships with employers to develop market-relevant skills training programs for at-risk youth ages 14 to 20, including those under 18 who are vulnerable to exploitive child labor.
"At-risk youth at home and abroad share similar struggles," said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "They work hard to overcome poverty and escape gang violence, but the deck is stacked against them without access to a good education and good jobs. This project will help give a lifeline to youth in El Salvador and Honduras by providing the valuable, job-driven training and employment resources that they need."
Young people will gain valuable skills in a secure learning environment, in some cases living in a residential center while receiving training. An extended period of follow-up support will help ensure they obtain and retain employment, or can develop opportunities for self-employment.
The Department of Labor project is one of three programs announced by President Obama to support youth in Central America and the Caribbean, which include $35 million from the United States Agency for International Development for a regional higher education program and $20 million for an education program in Guatemala that is part of a broader poverty-reduction program in the country from the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
The DOL project supports the priorities of the governments of El Salvador and Honduras to provide quality vocational training opportunities to youth.
Applications must be submitted by Monday, June 8, 2015, at 4 p.m. EDT electronically via http://www.grants.gov or by hard copy to the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Office of Grants Management, Attention: Elizabeth Whittington, Grant Officer, Reference FOA-ILAB-15-01, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room N4673, Washington, D.C. 20210.
ILAB leads the U.S. government's efforts to ensure that workers around the world are treated fairly and are able to share in the benefits of the global economy. To these ends, ILAB has provided funding for 292 projects in over 90 countries to combat the worst forms of child labor by providing assistance to vulnerable children and their families. More information is available at www.dol.gov/ilab/.