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Short-cycle higher education (SPC) programs, such as technical degrees, tertiary careers, and advanced vocational training programs, can be a very effective tool in times of crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic, when millions of people across Latin America and the Caribbean need the training and skills they need to urgently enter the formal labor market, according to a new World Bank report.

The pandemic has hit the region hard, causing an unprecedented economic slowdown and a sharp drop in employment and production at a time of major transformations in the world of work. In this context, SCPs, which are typically two or three-year labor market-oriented programs, could help boost employment by providing a pathway to relatively quick and well-paid employment opportunities, according to the report. .The Fast Track to New Skills, Short Cycle Higher Education Programs in Latin America and the Caribbean”.

Countries in the region should promote the expansion and quality of these programs in order to benefit more people and rapidly generate the human capital necessary for economic recovery and growth.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an unprecedented crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean, pushing millions of people into poverty. Short-cycle tertiary education programs can play an important role in the recovery by helping to overcome the jobs crisis and preparing individuals for today’s world of work ”, said Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, vice -President of the World Bank for the Latin America and the Caribbean region. “In this context, countries in the region need to promote the transformative potential of CCS. “

According to the report, the salary benefits of technical-level careers are clear. For example, graduates of short programs typically earn, as expected, lower salaries than graduates of bachelor’s programs, but on a regional average, the former earn 25% more than the high percentage (54%) of program dropouts. baccalaureate, taking into account the characteristics of the students. The difference ranges from a low of -4 percent in Peru, 8 percent in Argentina, 22 percent in Ecuador and 42 percent in Paraguay to highs of 58 percent in Bolivia and 74 percent in El Salvador.

Likewise, on a regional average, SCP graduates earn 60% more than high school graduates without tertiary education. In this case, the wage difference ranges from 32 percent in Peru and 36 percent in Costa Rica to 44 percent in Mexico, 48 percent in Chile and to maximums of 100 percent in Bolivia and 110 percent in Salvador.

SCP graduates are also doing well in terms of employment. Not only do they outperform high school graduates; they also outperform dropouts from baccalaureate programs. Compared to the latter, they have a lower unemployment rate (3.8 versus 6.1%) and a higher formal employment rate (82 versus 67%). Especially in the current context of unemployment and informality, these are important results.

The report also shows that SCP students graduate higher than bachelor’s students (57% vs. 46%), which is particularly relevant given that baccalaureate dropouts make up about half of all people who start the school year. higher education in ALC and that on average, SCP students come from more disadvantaged backgrounds than undergraduate students.

“Short-cycle tertiary education programs have important strengths, including the ability to respond quickly and flexibly to labor market needs. They also enjoy a fluid relationship with local businesses and often help students with their job search, ”said María Marta Ferreyra, senior economist at the World Bank and one of the report’s authors.

However, the offer of short programs in Latin America and the Caribbean is not yet as developed as in other regions and the quality of their offer is uneven. Over the past two decades, the rate of higher education enrollment in LAC has increased from 23% to 52%, but the largest increase has been in bachelor’s degrees. As a result, currently the share of SCP students in tertiary education enrollment is only 9 percent, lower than in most other regions (34 percent in East Asian countries and the Pacific, 30 percent in North America, 21 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, 18% in Europe and Central Asia). And while some programs provide great results in the job market, others do not.

In order to increase the number of short programs and improve the quality of their educational offer, it will be crucial to implement the appropriate policies. This will allow short higher education programs to reach their full potential. Examples of such policies are the provision and dissemination of information on the results, costs and returns of all programs; correct funding inequalities between students and types of programs; hold programs accountable based on student achievement; and facilitate the accumulation of degrees and flexible academic paths.

According to the report, with the right policies, institutions can deliver better programs, students can make more informed career decisions, and individual, business and economic needs can be met.

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