The Kateri Tekakwitha Fund developed this Work Experience Program to support recent high school graduates as they begin their job search, a process that often takes up to one year. Through strategic partnerships with private and public institutions, the Work Experience Program enables young indigenous women living in the Guatemalan Highlands to gain critical career experience, while earning a stipend to help support them and their families.
In Guatemala the national average employment for women is 42%, this number drops to 40.8% in Chimaltenango. For recent graduates finding paid positions in their chosen fields is very difficult without work experience. According to a 2010 study of the Kateri Tekakwitha Fund graduates have very high employment rates at 84%, with 71% in the formal sector. However, it took an average of eleven months for the women to find employment.
The Fund has supported 1-2 individuals in local work experiences for 6-12 month periods during the past 5 years. During 2012 the Fund seeks to expand the program by hiring a local coordinator to establish professional relationships with a variety of businesses and non-profit organizations and select young women for work experience opportunities. These relationships would allow for the placement, supervision, and further professional development of up to 5 selected indigenous women.
When surveyed in 2010, 84% of former Kateri Tekakwitha Fund recipients were currently employed. The women expressed that their increased economic security is critically important to them. One woman stated, "I know how to better face life. I have more opportunities in different places, and I have a sense of security". Others said "because I have a salary I can help my family" and "we don't have to suffer a single day anymore without food", expressing their gratitude for the Fund.