Our third day of orientation was all about SENA, the institution where we will all be teaching. Two gentlemen who work there came to tell us more about it and what our role there will be.
For those who don’t know, SENA (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje, roughly translated to National Learning Service) is a network of free technical schools run by the Colombian government. The goal of SENA is to provide job training to all Colombians who want it, regardless of their income or background.
In no particular order, here are some of the most interesting things we learned today:
- There are 117 SENA centers spread through all 33 regions of Colombia. SENA also offers online courses and has mobile centers to reach Colombians who live too far from any of the main centers. Each SENA center focuses on a few practical subjects, such as welding, agriculture, or tourism.
- SENA primarily serves low-income Colombians, and makes a particular effort to reach marginalized populations, including female heads of households, indigenous populations, Afro-Colombians, people displaced by violence or war, and people who have been demobilized from armed groups and are in the process of re-integrating into society.
- Because of their work with the last two groups, SENA has been a part of the peace process in Colombia.
- English is an important part of education at many of the SENA centers because it can help improve the career prospects for students. For example, some SENA students are training to be welders. Though English is not directly applicable to welding, there are many welding jobs overseas that pay more than welding jobs in Colombia. To get those jobs, the welders need to speak English, and that’s where we come in.
- SENA is such an institution in Colombia that a common joke among Colombians is telling someone who is failing to do something easy that they should take a course at SENA. (For example: if someone were to be having trouble opening a can, their friend might joke, “dude, you should take a course at SENA on can-opening!”)
The more I learn about SENA, the more impressed I am. I really admire Colombia’s dedication to making sure that all its citizens have access to education and job training, regardless of their background or financial situation. I wish the United States would demonstrate the same commitment.
After today, I am even more excited to be a part of SENA and to meet my future students and co-teachers. Only two weeks left!