March 26, 2019

Searching for work was once a challenge for students at the Universidad Centro Americana José Simeón Canas (UCA).

Though the university had relationships with local employers, it didn’t always understand the difficulties students were having in finding jobs — or what employers were looking for in new hires.

That changed in 2017.

World Learning worked with five Salvadoran universities to establish career development centers (CDCs) as part of the USAID-funded Higher Education for Economic Growth Project. These centers provide connections to the local job market and prepare students for careers through skills trainings.

“World Learning had a way of customizing their global experience to fit the reality of El Salvador,” says Mario Dimas, director of the university’s CDC.

Since late 2018, World Learning’s university partners have created a total of 312 connections with local employers.

UCA, in particular, has doubled the number of internship and job opportunities for students and increased its employer partnerships by 127 percent. Major companies like Unilever now send staff to lecture at the university, conduct recruiting activities on campus, and bring students on tours of their technical sites. Students return with a newfound understanding of the technical skills employers desire, which helps the university improve its curricula.

World Learning also worked with the university to establish new practices to develop students’ soft skills. Now, counselors at the career center employ role-playing techniques to help students practice for job interviews and offer personal attention to students developing their resumes.

“Students must go beyond what they learn in their technical abilities,” Dimas says, explaining that companies are looking for recruits who can express their ideas, engage in teamwork, and prepare for leadership roles.

Ultimately, everyone benefits, he adds. “These companies receive students who understand how to work in real life.”