THE LATEST: Success Story: Overcoming social stigma in Bogotá: Meet Michelle

Success Story
by Paola Paternina Chicre

Supporting inclusive employment opportunities for young people is a key priority for the Learning for Life program led by DIAGEO Colombia and Tanager, given that youth unemployment rates in Colombia are generally double or even triple the unemployment rate of adults. In Colombia, youth unemployment stood at 17.7% in the final quarter of 2019, according to the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), seven percentage points above the national unemployment rate for all ages. Seeking to contribute to solutions, DIAGEO Colombia and Tanager joined forces in 2015 to develop job skills training and employment projects for at-risk young people in the cities of Barranquilla, Bogotá, Cali, and Medellín.

This challenge calls for a multi-sector approach that taps into the power of education to open up opportunities for individuals and families, as well as for communities and the country as a whole. However, education is not enough if it does not go hand in hand with effective job placement strategies.

It is essential to prepare young people according to the needs of today’s job market, ensuring that their skills align with industry demands in the city where they live. To be successful, job candidates must also strengthen their soft skills and receive tailored career guidance. At the same time, it is important to build awareness among the private sector in order to promote dignified and decent work opportunities.

Our project seeks to provide valuable training and skills to talented young people who are looking for career opportunities. The project also works to drive market demand for these young people’s profiles through alliances with the private sector to transform employers’ perceptions and hiring practices, and in this way creating new paths for employment for this population.

DIAGEO’s three distributors in Colombia recently decided to revamp their human resources policies with the support of these strategic alliances. By committing to best practices for inclusive employment, they are now facilitating access to highly skilled young people who are eager to work and bring added value to their companies. The companies—Altipal, Meico, and Dialsa—have chosen to invest in the talent and diversity of the project participants, with 25 new hires to date from DIAGEO’s projects in Barranquilla, Bogotá, and Medellín.

Moreover, on October 22nd, Altipal was recognized by the Chamber of Commerce of Bogota as an inclusive company because of its participation and commitment with the Learning for Life project.

Michelle Sanchez Sourio is one of the participants of the project in Bogotá. Her job skills training has been sponsored by Altipal, where she later went on to do an internship.

Originally from Venezuela, Michelle migrated to Colombia in 2018 in search of better opportunities after being unable to continue with her studies in her home country. However, life in Bogotá came with challenges of its own. After more than 70 unsuccessful interviews, the only jobs she could find were of an informal nature.

Michelle learned about the project through a migrant assistance organization and applied immediately. After passing the admissions tests, she enrolled in the project’s Marketing and Sales course. In the beginning, she was very suspicious about the project because of her previous experiences in Bogota as a migrant. Then, another opportunity came her way when Altipal chose to sponsor her studies.

“The most important lesson we’ve learned from this program is that it is possible to overcome the social stigmas and prejudices faced by different groups living in Bogotá, especially young people and migrant populations. Breaking down those barriers and having my studies sponsored by Altipal, one of the largest DIAGEO distributors in Colombia, meant so much to me. This has strengthened our trust in ourselves and others, helping us to achieve true reconciliation with institutions, the people around us, and, most importantly, with ourselves.”