Employability program strengthens skills of refugees in Panama

From the first day Delsy arrived in Panama, she began practicing her talent: the art of sewing. I She was an art education teacher in Colombia and had her own handmade pajama business. After fleeing her country, she found herself in Panama with no choice but to rely on herself to keep going.

The first few months were tough for Delsy. Without access to a decent job that could give her job stability, Delsy explained, “The difference is huge when you work without documentation, you don’t have the rights that a (formal) worker has.”

To improve her customer service skills, Delsy became part of Talento Sin Fronteras (Talent Without Borders), an employability program for refugees developed by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, ManpowerGroup and HIAS. The program seeks to enhance the skills and abilities of refugees and Panamanians in vulnerable conditions, creating opportunities to improve their living conditions through decent work. Given the program’s potential, Talento sin Fronteras was included in the resilience strategy of the Municipality of Panama.

“They taught us that the first thing to do when the client arrives is to ask his or her name, smile, and welcome him or her,” says Delsy, who immediately applied what she learned in her day-to-day life. “It worked for me what I learned, as they started complimenting my boss because I was serving them so well.”

Since 2018, more than 500 refugees and Panamanians have been trained by program partners to develop the tools and skills necessary for an impactful job application, aligned with the current labor reality. 

In addition to working with refugees, Talent without Borders has sensitized 45 companies in the country, some of which have provided the opportunity for some of its participants to do internships in those companies.

“I hope that many refugees can take advantage of Talento Sin Fronteras because it is a program that helps us grow,” says Delsy with a smile.