TECHNICAL ADVANCEMENT

Panama 2017 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | FOCUS: ITSE

Panama's first technical and professional schools will be pivotal to the development of soft skills to address the talent shortage in key sectors.

There are many challenges for doing business in Panama: Along with governmental bureaucracy that stifles entrepreneurs and businesses and a certain dearth of institutionalization at several levels, the lack of a highly specialized workforce has been identified as one of the main obstacle to successfully develop a business in Panama. President Varela's government, along with the support of the Competitiveness & Logistics Secretariat, designed Instituto Técnico Superior del Este (ITSE) based on the model of similar technical schools that have been already successfully developed in the UK, Germany, and Singapore. ITSE will allow for the development of qualified professional profiles to meet the increasing demand of qualified workers coming from several segments of the national economy, both from the private and public sector. In an exclusive interview with TBY, Miguel Angel Esbrì, National Secretary of Competitiveness & Logistics Secretariat, stressed the pivotal and crucial importance of such projects for the solid development of the national economy: “With the joint efforts in terms of the lack of highly qualified workforce, we coordinate activities with the Ministry of Labor and other such institutions. We plan during our term in office to create over 120,000 new positions and train more than 232,000 people. Additionally, we have established the country's first technical and professional school in the country (ITSE).”

The new ITSE will attract all the students who for academic, social, or economic reasons do not have access to the traditional existing network of universities and are in need of a job. With the ITSE, Panama will witness a new generation of young professionals with a solid and competitive technical background in the fields of logistics, languages, construction, communications, business administration, health, environment, tourism, hospitality, and engineering.

In order to attract students from all over, an appealing environment, a state-of-the-art technological infrastructure, and a modern facility will characterize the new technical institute that will be completely aligned with the vision and mandate of International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN specialized agency that seeks to promote social justice and internationally recognized human and labor rights. As Angel Esbrì noted, “Companies arriving here face a lack of technically qualified human resources in certain areas. At the same time, certain companies have also raised concerns over the lack of soft skills in people. We can see the consequences of this: in most customer-facing jobs such as in the hospitality industry, we have people from other nationalities working there. The development of these technical schools is in response to the needs and concerns of companies operating in Panama.”

All the classes and the short courses—comprising one or two years—at ITSE will be taught in English and Spanish; they will be based on the concept of both practical learning—making up 70% of the total syllabus—and theoretical learning, which will account for 30%. The students enrolled at ITSE will have the option to spend the last months of their courses working as trainees in several national and international companies that have based their operation in the country.

With a total investment of more than USD200 million from the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) and Cooperación Andina de Fomento (CAF), the development bank of Latin American, Panama's first technical institute will be located in Tocumen. It will be serviced by the new, expanded Metro and is strategically built close to Corredor Sur and to the international airport. Based on the government's vision, the new technical school will be fully operational starting from January 2019 and will be able to accommodate approximately 5,000 students, who will be taught by 250 high-profile and qualified teachers and professors.