Nearshore Americas

Chile’s Short History of Reshaping Higher Education to Power Global Services

Crunching Chile’s higher education data and talking with a former leader at Chile’s economic development agency,  CORFO, has given us a pretty detailed picture of how Chile’s education system has made important strides in the last few years to meet the demands of global services.

“On one side you have higher education adapting to a globalized world and Chile’s increasing role in global service delivery, on the other you have structural problems,” said Gordana Stojkovic, a highly respected executive in the investment promotion sector of Chile.   The country grabbed headlines last year as Chilean students (led by the Chilean Confederation of Students) rejected several plans for government education reform and staged massive protests. After stints at CORFO and serving as head of ChileIT, Stojkovic has moved on to become a consultant at the Economic Council for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL), a regional branch of the United Nations.  While at CORFO Stojkovic was intimately involved in a campaign to encourage the orientation of Chile’s higher education towards producing a workforce fit for global services.

Despite last year’s turmoil, currently there are 1,032,571 students enrolled in higher education in Chile, and some 285,291 or 28 percent of them are enrolled in technical careers.  That number has shot up 139 percent from the 119,525 enrolled in tech careers in 2005, and jumped another nine percent in 2011.  The National Board of Education (CNED) is responsible for developing statistics related to the specifics student population and educational programs offered to them, which can be found in their database.

There are three main types of undergraduate education in Chile that make up nearly all undergraduate tracks: university (60 percent), Professional Institutes (27 percent), and two year Technical Learning Centers (13 percent).  The Chilean higher education system is comprised of 60 Universities, 44 Professional Institutes (PIs), and 59 Technical Learning Centers (TLCs) totaling 163 educational institutions.  The majority of the technical career paths are handled by the Professional Institutes and Technical Learning Centers with a combine 3,523 programs; Chilean universities account for 431 programs.

“After we came the conclusion we were short, especially on ITO workers, we launched a campaign in 2009 called ‘Tu Naciste Para Ser Grande’ or ‘You Were Born to do Something Big’ that not only targeted massive educational institutions, but also the students themselves.”

In 2005 approximately 2,099 technical careers were offered by universities, PIs and TLCs combined.  Since that time universities have grown to offer 39 percent more technical degrees, PIs have grown their technical career offering 152 percent, and TLCs are responsible for 66 percent growth.  All together since 2005 there has been an 88 percent increase in technical careers offered with a 10 percent increase in 2011 to bring the total to 3,954 technical careers offered.

“We did three studies in 2008, the first of which was to identify the occupational profiles needed for the global services sector.  We identified 32 profiles overall, seven or eight were purely IT.  The second study we did informed us that Chile was short on people that fit those 32 occupational profiles,” said Gordana Stojkovic about her role on a public-private council associated with the then Cluster for Global Services.  The council was tasked with studying the human capital situation related to global services; Stojkovic was working as Coordinator of Global Services at CORFO during that time.

“After we came the conclusion we were short, especially on ITO workers, we launched a campaign in 2009 called ‘Tu Naciste Para Ser Grande’ or ‘You Were Born to do Something Big’ that not only targeted massive educational institutions, but also the students themselves,” remarked Stojkovic.

Stojkovic mentioned that the large players that make up the educational ecosystem were encouraged to develop more technical degrees, but that also included more soft skills and more English.  At the same time students were informed that jobs in ITO, BPO, and KPO sectors paid higher wages and CORFO gave scholarships to students to study IT related careers.

The campaign supported Chilean higher education that was already trending towards offering more technology related careers.  Careers in the general Technology category grew from 1,748 in 2005 to 2,840 in 2012 or 62 percent, with eight percent of the growth in 2011.  Two other career categories that grew faster were Health and Administration & Commerce, 153 percent and 63 percent respectively.

When total career types among universities, PIs, and TLCs are broken out by broad ‘areas of knowledge’ like Health or Law, Technology leads the way accounting for 30 percent of all careers offered by all relevant educational institutions in Chile.  The closest competitor, Administration & Commerce, is nine points back at 21 percent.

Chile’s English

CORFO has a national English language registry that counts 46,000 Chileans.  In 2011, some 8,050 of those registered sought out testing and 34 percent of them tested at an intermediate level.

“CORFO is still giving grants to study English.  It is a model that has been adopted by other countries in South America.  Really only about four percent of Chileans speak and write English at a professional level, that is why bilingual call centers have never been so popular here.  Those that have a high level of English are usually working in some other capacity like KPO or IT Services,” added Stojkovic.

English is Chile’s second language according to Chile: A Country With Talent, a government issued report.  They boast that English is commonly taught at public and private schools and supported by the Ministry of Education’s English Opens Doors program.

In regards to the program, the report states that “English is included in the national pupil attainment testing system (SIMCE), using the TOEIC Bridge test for secondary pupils, and English Camps are organized during the summer and winter holidays for secondary pupils while Debating Tournaments in English seek to promote discussion of ideas in English among secondary schoolchildren throughout the country.”

Number Crunching – Technical Learning Centers (TLCs)

The number of technical programs offered in Business Administration makes up 9.5 percent of all technical degree programs while Information Systems and Network Administration related programs each make up 2.7 percent of total technical programs respectively.  Of the 208,631 students studying at TLCs 14,027 are studying Information Systems and Network Administration related careers and 25,161 are studying Business Administration.  The top careers by number of students at TLCs are Nursing and Risk Management boasting some 50,208 and 30,768 students respectively.  Stojkovic said the huge jump in programs and enrollment risk management may have to do with the mining sector.

In terms of program growth at TLCs, Information Systems and Computing & Information grew a modest 12 and 14 percent respectively, while Network Administration programs grew 93 percent during the same seven year period from 2005 to 2012.  Information Systems and Computing grew at a slow rate when compared with Risk Management and Preschool Education, both of which grew over 200 percent during the same period.

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Number Crunching – Professional Institutes (PIs)

When it comes to careers (programs) offered by Professional Institutes in Chile, Administration and Administrative Engineering (similar to Management Science) lead with some 329 programs nationwide.  The second most offered careers by PIs are Information Technology related programs with 246 programs nationwide.  Accounting and auditing came in fifth with 232 programs.  Partly due to these programs large existing base, they did not grow as fast between years 2005 and 2012 when compared with other career programs.  Administration, Accounting and Information Technology programs grew at rates of 30 percent, 22 percent and 21 percent, respectively since 2005.  During the same period professional programs in Psychology and Automotive Engineering grew 236 percent and 89 percent respectively.

Although programs offered by PIs in Administration, Information Technology, and Accounting ranked high in sheer volume of programs offered, that does not dictate enrollment by first year students.  More Chilean students enrolled in programs related to Commercial Engineering in 2012 than any other professional career (at a PI) followed by Nursing, Law, Risk Management Engineering, and Psychology.  Administration, Accounting, and IT related professional career enrollment for first year students in 2012 listed at sixth, tenth and eleventh, respectively.

Enrollment growth from 2005 to 2012 in professional programs by category also yielded a bit of a surprise – Information Technology related professional programs did not crack the top 15.  Risk Management Engineering came in at number one with a 212 percent increase in enrollment for 2012 when compared with 2005.  Administration registered an 84 percent increase for its part.

Jon Tonti

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