Pivoting in a Pandemic: Youth in USAID’s Bridges to Employment Project Create Essential Supplies for Healthcare Workers
INTRADESA’s 150 Youth Pivot to Fight the Spread of COVID-19
USAID projects serve and support the communities in which they operate. For example, INTRADESA, a textile company in El Salvador, is a private sector partner of USAID’s Bridges to Employment. Bridges to Employment works with job training institutions to improve the work-readiness and soft skills of youth between the ages of 16 and 29 living in high crime municipalities.
Recently, INTRADESA shifted its production from casual clothing to protective gear for healthcare workers. Bryan, who is a graduate of the USAID project, is one of the 150 INTRADESA employees who are supplying much-needed face shields, bags for protective gear and waste, plastic bottles for hand sanitizer, soap, and other hygiene supplies to the government of El Salvador.
Another Bridges to Employment partner, Termoencogibles, produces about 2,000 protective smocks per day. The products are produced using machinery and equipment purchased with USAID grant funds.
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“The knowledge and skills that project youth have learned during this experience and through their prior technical training will be directly transferable, equipping them with the ability to produce plastic products for a variety of employers and the experience of working while complying with safety and biosecurity protocols,” said Yolanda Martinez, project manager at USAID El Salvador.
INTRADESA was continuing to pay employees who were not coming into the plant due to the national quarantine. For those who were willing to help develop goods, they implemented rigorous sanitary protocols. All staff were required to wear face masks, temperatures were checked, and work areas were reconfigured to allow for social distancing. The program also provided transportation for all employees to prevent spread via public transportation. These sanitary protocols are likely to become long-term protocols for more plastic companies, further preparing the employees for the future.
“Manufacturing is one of El Salvador’s most critical industries and has high growth potential,” Martinez said. “By targeting this sector and equipping youth not only with in-demand technical skills but also with life skills and valuable hands-on experience, USAID has prepared the youth to get their start in the workforce and thrive in current and future positions. Employers have noted that their skills have set them apart from other workers. USAID provides an upward trajectory towards economic independence for these youth and stability for their families.”