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Closing the Education Gap in Latin America

December 16, 2009

This week, hundreds of Latin American high school students journeyed to Buenos Aires for the first Junior Achievement Company of the Year Competition in the Americas. Cargosas won the inaugural FedEx Global Access Award by successfully marketing a reusable tote bag made from recycled materials. This team from Ecuador best incorporated concepts related to international trade, environmental sustainability and global market expansion.

FedEx sponsored the JA Competition in the Americas for one reason: to ensure the future of Latin America by improving the quality of education and the competitiveness of our workforce. Earlier this year, FedEx commissioned a study with the Economist Intelligence Unit where nearly 200 Latin American executives recognized the importance of an educated workforce to business.  Participants avowed that Latin Americans entering the work force lack the “hard” and “soft” skills needed to compete. Weakness in “hard skills” (including science, technology, and mathematics) is troublesome; but even more problematic is the disparity in “soft skills,” which include critical thinking, leadership, problem solving and negotiation.

This is where JA comes in. For more than a decade, FedEx has worked closely with Junior Achievement to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in the global economy. The JA Company Program provides students the opportunity to gain the critical soft skills they need and prepare them for the future world of work. Recent research by JA showed that students who participate in the Company Program are 400% more likely to start a business. For me, this is not only good citizenship, but good business.

At FedEx, we believe that when individuals gain Access to markets, ideas and other people around the world, their opportunity for advancement increases. Access in not only the heart of our business, but a significant force for change in the world. Education is the key to unlocking that potential.

The road to success is long. But taking this journey together will not only reduce the “hard” and “soft” skills gap, but ultimately thrust Latin America, into the battle for international commerce. We cannot afford to do otherwise.

Junior Achievement Americas Student Company of the Year Competition Awards:
• First Place: Le Truffe of Peru produced chocolate truffles with local ingredient from trees grown in northern Peru. The company recycled all discarded paper and plastic material and used the proceeds to support educational scholarships for disabled children.
• Second Place: Del Huerto of Peru produced a pickled vegetable mixture utilizing locally grown resources and donated profits to Operation Smile.
• Third Place: Cargosas of Ecuador produced a reusable tote bag made out recycled plastic bags.

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