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By John McCormick, PhD, The Collaboration Vector Inc.; Viviane Rodrigues, Sealand Americas; Katya Delfino, Projeto Arrastão; Sabrina El-Chibini, The Collaboration Vector Inc.
Youth unemployment presents a major challenge in Latin America impacting future social and economic development in the region. Ironically, many companies in the region cannot find qualified people for available positions because they lack the necessary skills, which has been identified as a key factor in inhibiting economic development. The World Economic Forum has suggested that corporations can play a key role in addressing this issue by providing vocational programs to guide youth into today’s workplace.
As an example of this, Sealand Americas, a container logistics company, has been working extensively with non-profit partner Projeto Arrastão (PA) to support disadvantaged youth in Campo Limpo, Brazil, in securing jobs or becoming entrepreneurs. As part of this collaboration, Sealand employees (Sealanders) designed a customer service training programme with the objective of helping young community members prepare for employment.
The training programme was designed and formulated by Sealand volunteers who were Customer Support Representatives (CSRs) working at Sealand America’s call centre in Brazil. The training was presented to 41 PA students over two days at the end of August 2018. It consisted of eight modules presenting information on fundamental aspects of establishing, maintaining and managing customer relationships.
Measuring social impact is an essential component of an effective evidence-based community programme
Students were trained over the eight sessions to recognise the benefits of listening, analysing and making informed decisions regarding potential business and customer relationships. The programme was designed to provide PA students with the skills necessary to promote productive communication and proactive problem-solving abilities in a business environment.
Measuring social impact is an essential component of an effective evidence-based community programme. In this case, The Collaboration Vector Inc. assessed programme impact by surveys of participating students immediately after the training and four months following the training. The former survey showed that young participants found the training was effective, felt optimistic that it would help them find a job and were more hopeful that they would have a better future. Although the programme was mainly designed around potential employment in a call centre, 89.5% of students reported that the skills taught could be applied to any customer/employer-based interaction and the lessons learned would help them find any job.
Over the four-month period after the training, young participants overwhelmingly reported that the training had helped them get job interviews, feel more confident during the interview process, get job offers, secure jobs and start new businesses. Seven students had secured new jobs after four months, while others were still considering new job offers at the time of the survey (49% of participating youth had job offers over the four-month period).
By expressing the social impact of the program in terms of the increase in student annual household income four months after the programme, a return on investment (ROI) was calculated based on the ratio of the income increase to the total Sealand investment. On this basis, an ROI of 4.97 was estimated, meaning that every $US1 invested was associated with a return of $4.97 four months after the end of the training.
While previous studies have confirmed that vocational training improves the labour market prospects of disadvantaged youth, particularly in low and middle-income countries, there is limited published information on the cost-effectiveness/ROI of corporate community training programmes or on the direct causal effects of corporate training programmes on youth outcomes.
In the current study, almost all the students (>95%) agreed that the training helped them achieve each employment-related outcome, providing a proxy measure of correlation between the training and social outcomes. This observation of student perceived benefit, supported by their satisfaction with the training programme, suggests that even a short training session (in this case two days) can be of substantial benefit to disadvantaged youth, provided it is presented in an effective manner. To confirm direct causal relationships between community programmes and student outcomes, PA is preparing to expand future programme assessments.
Corporate community programmes can have significant business impacts through positive changes in employee engagement parameters
Effective corporate community programmes can also have significant business impacts through positive changes in employee engagement parameters after participation in corporate sponsored volunteer activities. Surveys of Sealanders before and after the PA training program showed improvement in multiple business indicators; the greatest change in responses after the training was in the parameter “My participation allowed me to work effectively in a team with my colleagues” with a 25% increase in employees agreeing with this statement. Employees were also impressed with the interest shown by the students and by the potential impact of the training on their future. In addition, all the employee volunteers felt that the training had a positive impact on their own CSR performance and on their understanding of how to help their team deliver excellent customer service.
One immediate off-shoot of the customer service training was the introduction of a three-year apprentice programme for two young participants. Each of them is now employed at Sealand Americas. One year will be spent training in customer service, a second in sales and a third in product management. Sealand Americas is also providing English-language instruction to the apprentices and covering the cost of their university education.
The collaboration between Sealand and PA is ongoing with different programmes that include social, vocational and educational elements, all based on the development of employment opportunities for disadvantaged youths in the Campo Limpo region. This includes a long-term expansion of the customer service training program to reach more disadvantaged youth in Brazil.
The authors extend a special thank you to Sealanders Danilene Martines, Luciana Zazue and Michelli Camargo for the leading role they played in the design and delivery of the PA student training program.
Viviane Rodrigues, ECSA Cluster Top and co-author, recognises her team of passionate Sealanders who are investing their time and energy in the overall Brazil community programme and supporting its success.
About Sealand Americas
Sealand Americas – A Maersk Company is a differentiated logistics and services provider, born and bred to service people and relationships. Using local knowledge and world-leading logistics expertise, the company puts greater flexibility in supply chains. Powered by Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company, passionate local teams combine agile thinking with an unrivalled global network to move cargo quickly and efficiently across the Americas. Sealand Americas has a transformational community program in place that has received multiple awards and distinctions. (https://www.sealandmaersk.com/)
About Projeto Arrastão
For over 50 years, Sealand Americas’ partner, Projeto Arrastão, has been welcoming and supporting families who live in poverty, in Brazil’s Campo Limpo region. With a mission to “teach how to fish”, the organisation has been educating citizens capable of transforming their reality and the environment in which they live. PA is entrenched as a pillar in the community, having offered thousands of community members programmes in the areas of education, culture, income generation, and housing. PA is committed to transformation and quality of life improvement. (http://arrastao.org.br/)
About The Collaboration Vector Inc.
The Collaboration Vector Inc. (TCV) is a strategy and service provider and originator of the Transformational Community Involvement (TCI)™ Framework. The company provides strategic planning and design, stakeholder engagement, policy development, partnership facilitation, impact measurement, reporting and impact communications services. Dedicated to moving engagement from transactional to transformational™, TCV’s team of strategists, business professionals, and researchers deliver business and social transformation. The company is wholeheartedly committed to results.(https://www.thecollaborationvector.com)