As happens too often in Latin America, youth in my home country, the Dominican Republic, have access only to poor quality technical and technological education. Our training institutions do not provide the necessary tools and methodologies to prepare us for an increasingly demanding job market. When we complete our studies, we are left without direction.

As a result, approximately 20 percent of Dominicans ages 15 to 24 are not in employment, education, or training (NEETs). The NEET phenomenon particularly affects young women like me: six of every 10 NEETs in the country are women.

The New Employment Opportunities (NEO) initiative is working to change this throughout Latin America and the Caribbean by bringing together key stakeholders from the private, public, and civil society sectors to close skills gaps and offer the region’s youth market-driven training. I am 19 years old and one of 26,000 youth participants in the NEO Dominican Republic alliance.

Thanks to NEO’s quality standards tool and the creation of 23 job and internship placement offices (OILPs), the capacity of 26 regional service providers in the public and civil sectors has improved dramatically, enabling these organizations to better provide life skills, job placement, effective teaching, and/or career guidance to youth like me.

The Instituto Politécnico de Hainamosa, where I studied, for example, learned how to implement career guidance and internship services that allowed me to secure a three-month internship as a technical electrician for CRINSA JR SRL, an electromechanical contracting company.

When I joined the company, I realized the significant role the OILPs play by connecting youth in polytechnic high schools with companies, and even more so in the case of young women pursuing non-traditional careers in the Dominican Republic. It became clear to me that without the NEO-facilitated OILPs, internships like mine would not have been available.

During my internship, I had the opportunity to perform tasks from the start through implementation in the field, allowing me to gain full understanding of the process. My tasks included testing the operation of the company’s facilities and electrical systems and developing and interpreting electric plans and diagrams. I also learned how to conduct myself in a work environment and to strive to achieve my goals. I learned that responsibility, efficiency, dedication, and loyalty are critical to success.

The internship process not only allowed me to earn my professional technical degree, but also provided me a unique experience that contributed to my academic education and personal growth. After the internship ended, the company hired me as an engineering and industrial security assistant.

I’m deeply grateful to the educational community for their support during my time as a student: by sharing their knowledge, patience, and respect, they have helped me build my future. Thanks to the support and trust of people like my colleagues at CRINSA JR, I have learned a lot. 

And I learn more every day.

Vinioles Aquino Mieses participated in NEO in the Dominican Republic.