Espaço da Criança (Children’s Space) is a non-profit based in the city of Recife, northeast of Brazil. For the past 20 years, they have been supporting children who live in extreme poverty in underprivileged areas of the city, as well as their families and communities. They provide complementary education, food and protection for the children, giving them the opportunity to grow and thrive.

EC aims to provide a safe environment for children living in a high-risk context, restoring their perspective to be fully inserted in society. They also seek to minimize the negative influence that crime, violence and abandonment (a daily reality for many of the children) have on their development. However, due to the fact EC only works with children aged 4 to 12, the teenagers that leave the institution once they turn 13 are unassisted by other local programs. This is the preferred age range for local drug dealers to recruit them into trafficking and, sadly, many former students were lost to crime, homelessness and addiction.

To able to support children for a longer period of time and keep them safe during their vulnerable teenage years, EC will start a professional skills training program for teenagers aged 13 to 16. According to Brazilian law, 5 to 15% of a company’s workforce should be composed of young apprentices, starting at age 16. There is a great opportunity for EC to train and prepare their students to be fully skilled and eligible for the companies in the region to choose them.

To make this initiative more appealing to the private sector, EC will attempt to tailor the training program as to meet the specific HR needs of local businesses that show interest in the initiative. The idea is that companies sponsor the students, making an investment in the community and in the company’s future. A pilot version of the program will run between May 2017 and April 2018, but then the project would need the local support to keep going. To achieve all that, Espaço da Criança needs to effectively communicate the project and its benefits to the companies in the area, in an engaging way.

If Espaço da Criança is able to get enough companies on board, everyone will benefit: the adolescents, who will enter the job market; the companies, that will have access to skilled apprentices, with greater chance to become actual employees later on; and the community, that will benefit from lower rates of unemployment and from developing their teenagers and keeping them safe.

This TIE placement will help EC develop the materials to showcase their apprentice initiative to local companies, to get them to sponsor students from an early age and teach them the necessary skills so they can fit the company’s needs. Over the past two decades, EC has seen the potential of each child and family to give back to the community, and to create a stronger city, when given the right skills, support and love. This placement will hopefully help them continue that trajectory.

Dhatri Navanayagam from WPP is going to Brazil to work with Espaço da Criança. Stay tuned for updates!