The Guanacaste tree is the simple of Costa Rica's Pacific coast province.
The Guanacaste tree is the simple of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast province.

In the 21st century, the province of Guanacaste has become a land of contradictions. Known for many decades as the “forgotten province” of Costa Rica, Guanacaste these days is a land of luxury yachts, extravagant resorts, impressive mansions, ultra high-tech aerospace firms, top-notch research universities, and excruciating unemployment.

It is in Guanacaste that we find the canton of Carrillo, a municipality notorious for its high level of unemployment. According to a recent investigative report by Teletica Channel 7, Guanacaste is the province with the highest number of jobless residents, and the Carrillo canton is where more people are in need of a job.

Some of Costa Rica’s most spectacular resorts and mansions are located in Guanacaste; to wit: Mel Gibson’s Hacienda Dorada and the Riu family of resorts, which attract a high number of Canadian tourists. Still, this is where Teletica found a 27-year old unemployed man named Efren Flores, who tries to make a living by selling pineapples door-to-door. Mr. Flores lives in Filadelfia, where the municipal offices of Carrillo are located. This is where resumes and job applications have become so numerous that human resources personnel routinely go to the supermarket in search of empty cardboard boxes to keep them in.

The municipality does have a few vacancies, which is something that worries Sebastian Martinez, a street sweeper. He guards his job with utmost jealousy and is concerned that a younger candidate might sweep him right out of his treasured position. As a result, the streets, gutters, sidewalks, and public areas of Filadelfia are among the cleanest in Costa Rica.

A Matter of Technical and Vocational Education

There are actually a few job vacancies around the Carrillo canton, and most of them are related to the massive tourism industry. There is, however, a major deficiency in this regard. Reporters from Teletica visited the local Technical and Professional High School of Carrillo (Spanish initials; CTPC) and found a strong focus on agricultural education. Farming is becoming a ghost of an industry in Guanacaste, which is a reason why more than 40,000 are unemployed in this province.

The young vocational hopefuls at CTPC still learn about corn and sugarcane cultivation. They also learn about keeping hen farms, raising healthy rabbits (which fetch a handsome price at pet shops in the Central Valley), and raising hogs. Another group of students at CTPC learn culinary arts, hospitality matters, English, and basic computer skills; these are the students that the tourism industry needs as future workers.

The problem is that CTPC’s education leaves a lot to be desired, particularly with regard to English. According to the Costa Rica’s Coalition of Development Initiatives (Spanish acronym: CINDE), English instruction at CTPC and Guanacaste is sorely lacking, at least in comparison to the Central Valley and the Greater San Jose Metropolitan Area (GAM).

Teletica reporters at a vocational high school in the ritzy suburbs of Santa Ana, home of the lowest unemployment rate of Costa Rica, were surprised at the high level of English instruction here: 12 hours per week, which translates into 25 fully bilingual workers per year. These are the students who end up going to Guanacaste to be employed in the tourism industry.

Back in Carrillo, tourists who overstay their visas or who need some extra cash sometimes end up working under the table and taking some jobs away from the poorly prepared local candidates. Employers admit that this is not an ideal situation, but it helps them to stay operational. In the meantime, more students at the CTPC want to learn about organic corn cultivation, harvesting and processing techniques for the day when they will have a small piece of land to farm.

Article by Costa Rica Star