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Acumen’s New Investment is Tackling Unemployment in Latin America

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  • Latin America

Acumen announced its first investment in a company focused in education and workforce development in Latin America. With an investment of US $200,000, Acumen added Valentina to its portfolio of 10 investments in the Acumen Pioneer Fund in Latin America. A Guatemala-based company, Valentina addresses the key challenges that affect youth employment by providing project-based digital skills trainings for low-income youth.

Currently, around 50 million young people between 15 and 29 years old in Latin America and the Caribbean are not working, studying or being trained. Despite years of positive economic growth in the region, youth unemployment remains a persistent problem, representing 43 percent of total unemployment. Although a variety of social and economic factors are related to unemployment, other key elements specifically affect young people’s employability, including: lack of previous work experience, which limits entry points into careers; a mismatch between the labor market and education; and the lack of soft skills such as teamwork or problem solving.

Valentina addresses these challenges through a comprehensive solution from training to skills certification to job placement. Through a rigorous selection process, the company recruits young people who are not employed and provides educational training for six weeks. During this time, students learn technical skills, such as digital productivity tools, and soft skills like teamwork, verbal and written expression and project management. After training, the company certifies the “employability index” of the students and focuses on their job placement. One of the key advantages of Valentina’s program for the job-seeker is its pay-it forward model, requiring candidates to pay Valentina only once the company has successfully placed the individual into a job.

Since April 2018, Valentina has trained and certified 714 students (51 percent men and 49 percent women), of whom 153 have been placed in jobs, 101 found positions on their own, and another 291 recently certified students are now in the placement process.

“We are very excited about this investment, our first in the education sector in Latin America. Valentina has a very thorough training and certification model, which leverages technology. In addition, the financing model is innovative and the entrepreneurial team is very solid. Acumen is sure that we can add value, but we know we will also learn a lot from Valentina,” said Virgilio Barco, Latin America Director at Acumen.

“Valentina is honored and extremely grateful to have been chosen as recipients of the first investment in education by Acumen in Latin America. This type of investment allows us to make quick progress in building a model to reach more young people in Guatemala to achieve our impact objectives.” said Jessica Hammer CEO of Valentina.

Valentina was created not only to increase the employability of low-income youth, but also to increase incomes. The monthly salary of Valentina-certified youth is 20 percent higher than the Guatemalan minimum wage, reducing their financial vulnerability and improving their quality of life. At a high level, Valentina’s mission is to help Guatemala in its transformation to becoming a country recognized in the region for its technological, social and economic progress.