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Costa Rica 2018 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | FOCUS: EDUCATION TRAINING

One of the main factors that attracts investors to Costa Rica has been its skilled human capital. For this purpose, the government and academia are collaborating to improve programs and better align them to the requirements of several industries.

The Costa Rican Coalition for Development Initiatives (CINDE) emphasizes the need to generate more qualified human talent to continue attracting multinational companies that invest in the country. According to CINDE, Costa Ricans are a determining factor for those companies that establish business in the country thanks to the workforce's ability, skills, and receptiveness to new ideas and systems.

Vanessa Gibson, CINDE Investment Climate Manager, detailed, “Multinational companies attracted by CINDE generate an average of 7,000 new jobs a year." This totals 35,000 new jobs between 2018-2022, and this demand will require the training of bilingual, specialized technicians in areas such as design and manufacturing, software development, financial analysis, mechanics and mechatronics, language, and technology development.
However, a report from McKinsey & Company reveals that education systems in many countries are not keeping up with the changing nature of jobs, resulting in more employers having difficulty finding workers with the necessary skill sets. The World Economic Forum's (WEF) stance reiterates this position, claiming that technology and education continue to shape business models in all sectors and geographies of the world; however, education and training systems are failing to respond to these trends.

The “job panorama," as WEF identifies it, is changing globally and in Costa Rica. The country's commitment to education a couple decades ago has resulted in its current status as an environment with qualified talent. However, as the job panorama evolves at an accelerating speed, education and training need to keep pace.
Gibson notes one of the most important challenges is the speed with which universities and technical education centers renew their offerings according to labor market demands, especially in STEM fields. Multinationals have reported to CINDE that they would have the capacity to double the number of jobs created per year if the country's labor supply better met these requirements.

IBM's country operations manager Alberto Mainieri told TBY that, in addition to in-house training, IBM collaborates with universities to “support the development of both current technical skills and skills for the future in fields such as data science, security, and cloud. In doing so, (they) are contributing to the development of the country and its resources."

Costa Rican universities show further efforts to supply a highly-skilled labor force. Henning Jenson, Rector of the Universidad de Costa Rica, highlighted to TBY that the unemployment rate of the university's graduates, at 3%, was much lower than the national average. For engineers, this rate is zero, aligned with claims of an unsaturated labor market in STEM fields.

ULACIT's rector Silvia Castro recognizes the many strengths of Costa Rican students, such as high English proficiency, critical thinking skills, and leadership abilities, compared to other countries in the region. However, she also recognizes the need to further develop quantitative skills like statistics and mathematics.
To meet these objectives, government, universities, and private enterprises need to continue and enhance collaborative efforts. In fact, the Ministry of Public Education recently launched its Dual Education programs, which consist of PPPs to train students with knowledge of strategic industries for the country. Currently, there is a pilot program dedicated to the training of students in the automotive industry, and in the near future, there will be more on the telecommunications and tourism fields. Technical students have the opportunity to take their classroom knowledge and gain hands-on experience in companies that are linked to the program.
The fourth industrial revolution—the automation and robotization of industrial processes and integration of internet—simultaneously poses challenges and opportunities for Costa Rica to maintain its position as a strategic location for business and investment. With multi-sectoral cooperation, Costa Rica's education system can ensure the workforce is aligned with the job panorama of today and the future.