A vocational school creates new job options for young Argentinians

Pictured is a dress created by Gisela Ponce, who studied the Wardrobe Course during 2012 under professor Gonzalo Giacchino. Photo credit: Leandro Jasa

With a rich and varied tradition of music, dance, theatre, cinema, literature and design, creative industries in Argentina are booming. This vibrant sector employs some 300,000 people and represents 3.5% of the country’s GDP. While market demand for skilled practitioners is also on the rise, many talented young people find it hard to break into this area.

Aspiring stage designer, Diana Caraballo explains: “It is very rare for artists to find affordable training and development opportunities that are practical.”

She was lucky enough to have recently completed a one-year stage design and tailoring course at a new vocational school for performing arts in La Plata (outside Buenos Aires).

The school was set-up by the Fundación Teatro Argentino de La Plata, a national non-governmental organization (NGO) working to bring the performing arts to a broader audience. In 2011, with support from UNESCO’s International Fund for Cultural Diversity, the Foundation established the school within the Argentine Theatre. Its goal is to develop the skills of unemployed youth and adults by teaching them theatre and production techniques at a minimal cost.

The IFCD-supported project involved establishing student selection criteria, procedures and designing intensive one-year courses, helping to meet market demand for creative skills and expertise. Modules included audiovisual, communication strategy, stage management, stage performance, and creative writing. The Cultural Institute of Buenos Aires was brought in to jointly develop four performing arts workshops taught by internationally renowned experts, notably from the Latin American Opera organization. Courses included carpentry, sculpture and props, scenic and space design, lighting design, and hair and makeup. 586 students completed the opening year programme, including Diana Caraballo.

She said, “The highlight of the one-year training was the request I received from an events company to create their wardrobe.” Now, with some of her fellow students, Diana has set-up an arts NGO called Almenara. “It’s great because we also get help to find employment in the cultural sectors,” she said.

The school’s job training and placement programme is helping students obtain internships and already numerous graduates have found work in performing arts institutions following the course. Meanwhile, partnering with the Ministry of Labor’s Independent Entrepreneurs Programme (IEP), still more graduates have set up businesses including an art gallery and a publishing business. With private sector support, students have also held exhibitions and taken part in job fairs. Additionally, the school is reaching out to countries across Latin America. Links have been established with similar institutions in the region with students from Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay having participated in some of the trainings. A network has also been created to sell student artwork, with profits going to the artists and the school.

With IFCD support, the establishment of the Argentine Theatre’s vocational school enlarged the pool of talented individuals in the creative industries, and developed skills and opportunities for unemployed youth and adults. A USD 200,000 grant from the Ministry for Social Development has since been invested in the school’s facilities. Through its network of local, regional and international actors, the project will continue to nurture creativity for years to come.

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