I recently returned from a whirlwind week in Manila. While I met with a number of important business leaders, the most inspiring experience I had was a visit to Kauniaran High School to meet students enrolled in our AWARE2 program. Kauniaran High School is in Navotas City, a low-income area of Manila, and its graduates typically spend three to four years finding stable employment. AWARE2, which is funded by JPMorgan, seeks to jumpstart graduates’ entry into the formal economy by providing a simple, but unusual “cocktail” of three components: life skills training, internships with local employers, and basic digital skills relevant to workplace needs, such as updating a business website.
One of the AWARE2 success stories is Lander Santos, who interned with a travel agency called Travel Bug. As part of his AWARE2 training, Lander had learned the basics of Canva, a software design tool. During his internship, he was able to use those skills to create posters for Travel Bug. His employer was so impressed that they hired Lander upon graduation. He’s now doing all their posters and managing the company’s website.
Lander’s success illustrates how the emerging digital economy is creating lots of solid “middle-wage” jobs, and not just for software engineers. In Landers’ case, a set of digital skills—and an opportunity to apply them—was enough to generate success.
The economy of the future will be marked by constant change. We must continue to support economic and educational programs that help young people—no matter where they live—to unlock whatever opportunities may arise.
Dave Offensend is President and CEO of EDC.