Projected to become the fourth largest economy in the world by 2050, Brazil is quickly becoming a powerhouse in the global economy. Clearly the country’s prospects rest in the hands of its younger generation. Unfortunately, not everyone is poised to seize the opportunities of the economy of the future.
Belo Horizonte, in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, is the country’s third-largest city. In the outskirts of the city in areas such as Betim and Contagem, it is not uncommon to find families caught in a cycle of poverty.
Studies have shown that family financial strain often pushes young women in Belo Horizonte into an early start in the job market. Early entry into the job market usually means performing activities that require little education, making school a burdensome chore and limiting the chance of success. Low education frequently results in lesser living conditions and limited prospects for pursuing improved opportunities. In an environment such as this, teenage pregnancy is not uncommon, as motherhood is viewed as a successful activity and sense of achievement, through which they fulfill the collectively recognized ideal of womanhood.
A Unique Opportunity
To provide young women from under-privileged backgrounds with the skills they need for good jobs, Jabil adopted the Projecto Gente Grande after acquiring the Belo Horizonte site in 2000. In order to participate in the program all of the girls are required to attend their local schools, eliminating the educational dilemma. Girls between the ages of 11 and 17 are eligible to join the program and graduate when they turn 18. Currently there are 70 girls in the program.
When Cinthia Lacerda was accepted into the Great People Project, she had responsibilities that many adolescents do not experience – duties that kept her from achieving personal goals. “When I began my participation in the project I was 11 years old and took care of two brothers,” said Lacerda. “I had no time to develop myself as a teenager and realized that the project offered me this opportunity.”
Skills for the Future
Upon being accepted into the program, the girls’ attitudes vary. Newcomers either show great interest because they have heard of the veterans’ success, or view the opportunity as an imposition from their parents and arrive frightened, anxious and discouraged, with a limited attention span and hyperactivity.
“After a trial period of two months it is possible to verify if the girls have adapted to the program, which is assessed by observing their level of interaction, attendance and disposition,” said Vania Mendes, Program Coordinator. “We notice their display of motivation, participation in group activities and improvement in school.”
Many of the girls often express their frustration and inability for the basic operations of mathematics. As studies have confirmed, a strong association exists between music instruction and achievement in mathematics. As such, the girls in the program are taught how to play a musical instrument and together form an orchestra.
During the first five years of the program, the girls are taught professionalism, ethics and values in a classroom environment. When they turn 16 the girls are introduced to the technical side of Jabil and begin their monitored apprenticeship on the plant floor and other workstations throughout the site. In the meantime they create resumes and participate in mock interviews to further prepare them for the job market.
“The project helped me develop skills within music, crafts and computers,” Lacerda explained. “Values such as duty, obligation, persistence, creativity and, especially, responsibility were generated within me.”
Eighty-five percent of the girls remain in the Great People Project until they finish the program at the age of 18. Of these, 90 percent enter the job market within three years of completing the program. In the last three years, Jabil contracted all of the young women who completed the program. Lacerda was no exception. She is now an Administrative Assistant in the Human Resources department.
“The Great People Project enabled me to achieve my first job because it taught me how to behave within a company and gave me the opportunity to work in several areas in order to acquire knowledge and to show my competence, which was crucial for the definition of my career. Whenever possible, I like to give back to the project by putting myself at their disposal as a volunteer,” said Lacerda.
Funded by donations from private companies, the sale of crafts created by the girls and donations in exchange for concerts from the orchestra, the Great People Project aims to widen the horizons of young girls caught in their families’ economic hardships, who once thought a career of their own was out of reach.