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A Day of Firsts

It is Alejandra’s first day on the job. Her hands are sweaty, her heart is thumping. She looks up from her phone and exclaims, “I am so nervous that I forgot today was my birthday!”

For the past five months, Alejandra has been studying in a workforce development project as part of Diageo’s Learning for Life® program in Bogotá, Colombia. Today is her first day as a sales intern for Diageo, one of the world’s largest producers of spirits and beers.

Today is also a first for Diageo – since Learning for Life®’s launched in 2008, Alejandra is Diageo’s first program beneficiary to be directly contracted as an intern.

A Spectacular Introduction

Walking into the common area of Diageo’s offices in Bogotá, Colombia, one might feel like they’re in a posh bar, instead of the offices of a multinational company. A sleek bar boasts the famous labels of renowned spirits and liquors – Diageo’s core business – and trendy sofas sprinkle the common area.

But what impressed Alejandra the most when she walked through Diageo’s doors was not its hip, sleek interior, but its people. As a student in the Learning for Life® workforce development program, she came to Diageo to participate in a day-long workshop with company volunteers.

She recalls it being “a spectacular day. I wasn’t bored for even a moment. People were so passionate about working here, about their products.” From that day on, she wanted to work for a company like Diageo.

Persevering in the Face of Challenges

Like millions of families in conflict-affected regions, Alejandra´s family came to Bogotá, looking for a safer place for their children. At the young age of 12, she remembers having to adjust from living in a small town of around 260,000 inhabitants to the country’s capital with more than 8 million.

After graduating from high school, Alejandra worked for various family-owned businesses in the neighborhood, but without a college degree or professional experience in the formal job market, it was difficult to land a stable job.

Within minutes of meeting Alejandra, it is clear that she is not the type of person to sit and feel sorry for herself. Her confidence, curiosity, and positive energy are evident through her handshake, speech, and smile.

“My parents taught me that there is a solution to every problem in life and that I should never just sit and wait for a solution. And it’s true. I have always found a solution.”

The Promise of a New Future

A week after Alejandra’s first day, she is less nervous, but no less ecstatic.

“I feel privileged. It’s an opportunity that I will not take for granted; not just because this is an important company, but because of everything I can learn here.”

One of Alejandra’s new coworkers affirms, “Alejandra was selected for her charisma, her desire to learn, to get ahead. She’s got this attitude of wanting to devour the world and it got her where she is today.”

In short, a rock star.

Company badge and rock star guitar hanging around her neck, Alejandra sets out on a path that will most likely change the course of her life.

About Learning for Life®

Diageo’s social responsibility model is built on the belief that education is the most powerful vehicle out of poverty. Through an alliance with Tanager (operating then as ASI), Diageo’s program Learning for Life® has equipped 670 marginalized youth with applicable skills to work in prioritized sectors in Colombia.

After six months of workforce development training, program participants gain professional experience in companies through hands-on internships in sales, marketing, hospitality, and office administration. For most of the young participants, the internship is their first experience, working in the formal job market.

“Diageo is trying to transform lives through opportunities, especially opportunities to access education, which is a fundamental tool for achieving change and opening doors,” Viviana Rengifo, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Diageo.

The program aims to provide opportunities to some of Colombia’s most vulnerable social groups – victims of the armed conflict and young women. Currently, nearly a fourth of Learning for Life® beneficiaries are victims of the armed conflict, while 80 percent of the beneficiaries are young women.