In the age of LinkedIn, you might think it’s straightforward enough for employers to find the talent they need. However, in IYF’s experience—particularly in Mexico—we’ve found the need to create tailored online portals that connect companies and technical and vocational education (TVET) graduates and solve a major problem for both those groups and training institutions.

Recruiters in Mexico continue to struggle to identify qualified candidates from TVET schools. On their side, young people have been relying on narrow personal networks. Their schools also can’t maintain up-to-date records for all students, especially after graduation. To date, IYF has worked with partners and human resources experts in Mexico to create three online databases for five states in the country: fuerzatecnicachihuahua.org (Chihuahua), jovenesabordo.org (Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo), and networkingforthefuture.mx (states of Mexico and Mexico City). IYF collaborator FedEx Corporation has promoted usage of this last site by human resource managers in Mexico City.

With this experience, we have found some key features contribute to creating an employment portal that provides recruiters with the information they need in an easily consumable way:

  1. Keep it simple to start, but allow recruiters to customize their search. The human resources consultants’ first piece of advice was to avoid being overly complicated. To begin a search, recruiters need to enter only two pieces of data: specialty (e.g., logistics) and zip code. With that, they get a complete list of relevant graduates listed by distance to the jobsite. Then, a recruiter can choose to sort technicians by academic performance, specialization, certifications, internship experience, and availability.
  2. Prioritize sorting results by distance to the jobsite. IYF included location as one of the two basic search criteria because it’s essential to recruiters. Commute times can have real impacts on business productivity in term of employee retention, turnover, absenteeism, and tardiness—in addition to performance and employee well-being measures.
  3. Make it easy for recruiters to learn more about and compare degree programs. The three databases IYF worked on in Mexico clearly present the key skills taught in different degree programs, the number of classroom hours by topic, and the number of internship hours. They also allow recruiters to compare degree programs side by side to figure out which ones best align with their business.
  4. Work with students so they understand the value of thoroughly filling out their profiles and updating them over time. Using the databases that IYF helped design, students create their profiles while looking for internships and can edit them prior to and after graduation. Each young person has incentive to complete his or hers, because the profile’s quality and thoroughness can increase the likelihood that an employer will contact them.
  5. Allow employers to easily contact batches of relevant candidates in a way that complies with privacy laws. Community managers approve each new account before the recruiter can begin its first search. Then, in accordance with Mexican data protection laws related to minors, the databases do not display the graduates’ names or contact information. Instead, recruiters are invited to contact one or multiple candidates through the online system. Using a customizable and monitored messaging service, recruiters can share their contact information and details about the opportunity. Graduates receive these recruiters’ messages through email, Facebook, and text message. The system monitors the contents to ensure inappropriate messages are not delivered.

Connecting young people to economic opportunities includes many players and a dizzying number of steps. When existing systems fall short, a tailored online employment portal improves the flow of information and offers one way to ensure youth are better linked in to first steps in a career.

Elizabeth Vance is Program Director, Systems Change for Workforce Development.