On one hand, public sectors need to expand their ability to innovate, but find it difficult to attract qualified professionals. On the other, young people take to the streets to demonstrate their grievances to their governing bodies, while sharing a desire for change. Standing between the two however, there is a barrier built of the stereotypes of bureaucracy and corruption with which civil service careers are associated in many people’s minds. In an attempt to break this vicious cycle, the Vetor Brasil (Vector Brazil) NGO has developed a program that trains recent graduates to work in government.
The program began in 2015 with the selection of 12 trainees to work in Salvador city council and state government departments in Goiás, Pará and São Paulo. Used to advising the public sector on the creation of local development projects, the NGO noticed that many such plans failed to get off the ground due to a shortage of people trained to implement them. But when they realized that qualified graduates should be encouraged to work in these areas, a new challenge arose: young people said they did not feel motivated to work in government, and even if were willing, did not know how to join the public sector.
“We decided we could create a bridge and show people that there are opportunities,” recalls the co-founder of the organization, Joice Toyota. Since then, in 2016 alone, Vetor Brasil has trained more than 50 young people to work in 13 government departments across the five regions of Brazil. “We grew once we could prove that it was possible,” she says.
To participate in the program, young people must go through an online selection process, which involves English and logic tests, skills mapping and interviews. When selected, they are trained to develop technical abilities, such as management, administrative law and process mapping, as well as personal skills, such as leadership, professional behavior and ethics.
“During the training program we connect with the idea behind the project. We consider, along our journey, the times we are living in and the reasons we are here, working together to improve the country in which we live,” says trainee André Mendes, 24. With a BA in Economics from the Federal University of Paraná, he discovered the training project while attending a leadership program of the Fundação Estudar (the Study Foundation). Attracted by the chance to resolve public disputes with an “outside the box” vision, he decided to sign up for the selection process and entered the class in the second half of 2016.
Alongside a colleague, he was assigned to work at the Rio de Janeiro State Environment Institute. Mendes points out that the training is a good opportunity to connect young people with the government and to drive change. “Historically, public administration in Brazil is seen as being full of bureaucracy. Even if the public application process is appealing, young people don’t know how to join. We have to create a purpose-driven environment.”
“The government structure is very rigid and traditional. We’re starting at a much younger age than the average person there,” says Lara Barreto, 25. A member of the first group of trainees, today she is also part of the Vetor Brasil team. After having worked in government in the states of São Paulo and Goiás, she says that joining the public sector is a challenge, but that training helps prepare young people better.
After they decided to bridge the gap between the trainees and the public sector, Vetor Brasil co-founder Joice Toyota explains how a team from the project made contact with the government to better understand their needs. “We went through a learning process and realized that the government has a real need and offers good opportunities for the development of the trainees,” says Joice. “While other employment opportunities exist, the vast majority are commissioned roles, which means that for a government to work with one of our trainees, it has to give up a politically-orientated role and hire professionally instead,” she says.
Historically, public administration in Brazil is seen as being full of bureaucracy. Even if the public application process is appealing, young people don’t know how to join
Trainee Marina Rose, 26, a graduate in political science from the University of Brasilia, was already working for the government when she decided to take the training. At the Secretary of State for Planning, Budget and Management of Brazil’s Federal District, she saw an opportunity to have an even greater impact in the public sector. Motivated by the idea of acquiring new knowledge and forming a network of contacts, she joined the program this semester. When asked about what attracts young people to a public career, she says that, despite the stereotypes about the field, the challenge is closely related to the profile of younger age groups. “What could be better than changing something that seems to be going wrong?”
From a government perspective, the arrival of young people has also brought changes to the work environment. “The public application process doesn’t evaluate the best people. It evaluates who was better prepared to answer objective questions at a certain time,” says Márcio Silva Lira, CEO of PRODAM Amazon, which welcomed a Vetor Brasil trainee into its team last year. He says that the young people bring a great desire for change. “This passion allows us to forge the new leaders that the country needs,” he says.
“Young people can bring a number of things [to government]. The clearest of these, which governing bodies can easily understand, is to breathe new life into the team. They have lots of energy and a great desire to do differently,” says the co-founder of Vetor Brasil, Joice Toyota. “They bring a dynamism and a sense of urgency to the team. There is also another angle, which is that they can support the implementation of public policy with new working tools.”
Henrique Vitta, 26, a graduate in accounting sciences from the University of São Paulo, fits neatly into this profile of youth driven by a desire for change. “I’ve always been interested in how institutions work, and often don’t work. I’ve always thought that things could be done better and that I could somehow be part of this,” she says.
She started working in the Ceará State Education Department just a month ago, as part of the implementation of full time schools in the state. “Young people think differently. They have no allegiance to the established way of doing things and want change. They don’t conform to the way things are, and even if they’re wrong, they can still make a difference,” says Vitta.
Through its mission of connecting young people and governments, this year Vetor Brasil won the Desafio de Impacto Social Google 2016 (Google Social Impact Challenge 2016). With the prize, it will build an interactive portal with interest tests and career mapping to support new graduates and expand its impact.
New class registration
The program is accepting new inscriptions for its 4th trainee group. Young people interested in taking part in the selection process for 2017 can register on the Vetor Brasil site until September 19.
*Translated by James Young.