Higher Education for Economic Growth Closeout

Higher Education for Economic Growth Closeout
Ambassador Jean Manes
Tuesday, April 2, 2019, 5:00 P.M., Teatro Nacional

Remarks by Ambassador Jean Manes at the USAID Higher Education for Economic Growth Closeout

* This is a courtesy translation. Only the original Spanish version should be considered authoritative.

April 2, 2019

This day we enthusiastically celebrate the achievements of this project, which after five years leaves many legacies behind.

The world of higher education is a paradox. For one thing, a college degree is the fastest and safest way to get a better job. But also on the other hand, across the world, more and more employers are noticing that graduates have not always acquired the skills and abilities they need most to run their businesses and organizations.

This challenge exists in most countries, including the United States. This disconnect is due in part to the lack of communication that exists between the private sector, employers, and higher education institutions that are responsible for preparing the workforce that the private sector needs. Closing this gap requires a multi-faceted solution with a comprehensive approach, and this project takes this complexity into account.

In the last five years, the Higher Education for Economic Growth project has made university education more accessible, by granting 650 young people with university scholarships, with which they are transforming not only their lives, but also the lives of their families and communities. Also more than 3,900 young people are currently studying careers created or modified specifically for the needs of the productive sector.

To facilitate the connection between higher education and preparation for the workforce,
Career Guidance Centers were built throughout the country and thanks to them, 478 new professionals got their first job.

478 new professionals got their first job. Awesome.

1,395 students obtained internships and more than 26,000 youth have used their services.

More than 150 researchers trained both here and abroad to improve the way they shape future generations. And we also support more than 26 research that has a high impact on the industry.

I could certainly spend the rest of the afternoon talking about the results. We will not do it, don’t worry. But it really is worth it. It is worth celebrating the results and achievements, because I believe in each one of you and your commitment, your dedication, your faith, to overcome doubts. To overcome mistrust. You are leading the way, deciding to put the country first. Deciding not only to continue with the work of our governments in this case, but to unite the efforts with the private sector, with the universities, with the local government, with international cooperation. You are leading the way. And I also have confidence that you are going to keep moving forward.

Last week I celebrated three years of being in El Salvador, and during this time I have met hundreds, even thousands of young Salvadorans. And despite all my time here, I am continuously amazed by the incredible talent of these young people, and even more, the incredible achievements they have achieved, often with just the smallest of opportunities.

There is an analogy perhaps already a bit hackneyed, but it is still true: a seed cannot germinate if the soil is not fertile.

A seed cannot germinate if the soil is not fertile.

The Higher Education Project for Economic Growth has been successful because there was fertile land. Opportunities are only as good as the people who take advantage of them and in El Salvador there are thousands of young people just waiting for the opportunity to realize their ambitions.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the first Zero Net Energy building in Central America. Not the first Zero Net Energy building in El Salvador. The first Zero Net Energy building in Central America. This building generates its own energy, is completely self-sufficient, and was developed and built here, in El Salvador, at the UCA, and it is a direct outcome of this project. It is an incredible example of what can be accomplished when talent, opportunity, and work come together. They become pioneers. Imagine: what else could they achieve if they had the opportunities?

Professor Robert Aumann, Nobel Prize in Economics, said that the three priorities for the development of a country are: education, education and education. And it is because education has a multiplier effect on the development of communities. The future of El Salvador is to develop the talent of the future and develop its human capital, which begins in the institutions that train them.

It is time to innovate, to promote opportunities to cooperate, generate fresh ideas and new business models that promote economic growth. And, of course, forge future generations of professionals.

The work that started with the Higher Education Project for Economic Growth will continue thanks to the commitment of all of you who are here in this room. In order for these achievements to be sustainable, the government, the private sector and the academy must continue to collaborate and this commitment has been formalized a few moments ago with new agreements between the Consortium of Institutions of Higher Education for Economic Growth and the unions of the productive sector. It is a model that could be replicated throughout the country and also in the region. And I can’t wait to see in some years El Salvador coming out in these charts that we saw of all the countries, that El Salvador is first in this place. I am confident that you can do it if you invest in the human talent that already exists in this country. They have all the ingredients to make El Salvador number one in the region, not only in the northern triangle, but throughout the region. And that is with your work. I also want to thank USAID for the work, how many years have we been working on this? Six years? Almost. We have many members of our USAID team who are here, who have worked and sometimes even forced you to collaborate. But they have succeeded and I am confident that you can already see the results of when you work together, ceasing to distrust everyone and put the country first.

Thank you very much and I am confident in your journey ahead.