Sergio Fajardo Valderramaa mathematician, university professor, and former Mayor of Medellín (2004-2007) and Governor of Antioquia (2012-2015)contributed to Medellín’s social transformation and new image and has received many awards and honors for distinguished leadership. His administrations have championed education and innovation and promoted programs co-led by the Inter-American Development Bank, the Multilateral Investment Fund, and the International Youth Foundation such as entra21 and New Employment Opportunities. Currently, Fajardo is a primary candidate for the Colombian Presidency for 2018-2022.

Following his participation in the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C. earlier this year, IYF spoke with him about his personal experiences and vision for the future of youth education in post-conflict Colombia.

What do you see as the challenges of youth education and employment in Latin America?

As Latin America advances, the requirements for success become more demanding. Beyond cognitive abilities and basic skills, socio-emotional skills have emerged as a necessary part of training. This is positive, but it’s also a challenge because we do not yet have teachers that are equipped to handle so many different training needs.

This is one of the questions that we have to answer in our region and in the world -- how can we strengthen our teachers so they can meet these new demands? The solution will require an investment that, unfortunately, I do not see being made; consequently, schools are not responding [to the demands]. I believe this is one of the key issues to tackle.

Why are programs like IYF, IDB, and MIF’s entra21 and NEO important?

Too many young people are out of school in Colombia. Our task as leaders is to make an extraordinary effort to provide a path for young people in the world of education and employment. Programs like entra21 and NEO address real youth needs by providing job training and the opportunities needed to develop their skills. In Colombia, entra21 provided an extraordinary way to recover and create conditions that allowed a significant group of youth inclusion in the world of education and opportunities. The work of this kind of project continues to be necessary today.

What should a youth training and employability program in post-conflict Colombia take into account?

After many years, there is a major opportunity for Colombia’s rural population. The challenge is reaching rural youth that have been left behind in traditional education. It means designing and offering a type of education that repairs, recovers, and redirects young Colombians who were previously left behind, and at the same time ensures that the education is effective and opens a path leading to opportunities and development for rural youth. It will entail redefining the concept of internships and apprenticeships in the rural sector, for example. Organizations like IYF and the MIF can offer critical support. The need also exists in many other places, but there’s a special urgency that exists in Colombia. It is critical for us, and an extraordinary opportunity. 

Juan Carlos Hernandez is Technical Specialist, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Photo by Patricia Dávila