Colombia’s National Training Service (SENA) will pay out some $12 million USD (36 billion pesos) this year to people across Colombia with plans to launch a business. According to the Colombian government, this will fund around 420 entrepreneurial ideas that it expects to create more than 2,000 new jobs.
The Fondo Emprender, or Entrepreneur Fund, has been administered by the public entity SENA since 2002 with a stated goal to “finance industry initiatives develop by apprentices, students, and professionals” according to SENA.
María Andrea Nieto, general director of SENA, announced the 2017 funding and program initiatives last week in Cartagena alongside the Griselda Janeth Restrepo, Colombia’s minister of work. “This new announcement comes with more opportunities and less paper work,” said Restrepo.
The amount of money awarded to applicants will be proportional to the number of job opportunities that the company is expected to create. If three direct jobs can be generated, the applicant will receive 49 million pesos, which is 80 times the legal minimum wage in Colombia (known as the “SMLV”). Or if five new jobs can be created, for example, then the fund will grant 92 million pesos and so forth.
Carlos Gamba, coordinator of Fondo Emprender said, that the initiative will invite more young people to devise entrepreneurial plans and become motivated to study in SENA. “It is created as a seed capital to encourage any Colombian who has any productive initiative,” he said.
Applying for Fondo Emprender is free and those who are awarded funds through Fondo Emprender will also be eligible to participate in any of SENA’s various projects. The institution will also fully assist everyone “to succeed in every business plan and teach people how they can make their dreams become reality,” said Gamba.
This year, for the first time since Fondo’s creation in 2002, regional budget allocations will be made for the low-income areas of Guajira and Chocó. The areas of Guanía, Vaupés, Putumayo, Amazonas, Vichada, and Guaviare, which were targeted last year, will again benefit in 2017.
And entrepreneurs in Mocoa, the Putumayo capital where more than 300 people were killed by a flash flood in April, will also receive a billion pesos this year.
“People of vulnerable communities of Colombia and groups like Jovenes Rurales Emprendedores (Young Rural Entrepreneurs) and Líderes del Desarrollo (Development Leaders) are also welcome to participate,” stresses Fondo Emprender.
Since being founded 15 years ago, the Fondo Emprender has administered more than 450 billion pesos, according to SENA. Almost 6,000 companies have benefited and more than 22,000 new jobs have been created for Colombians.
These statistics make the Fondo Emprender among the the biggest public seed capital funds in Latin America, something that has helped it gain support from the United States government, University of Texas, and MassChallenge in Boston.
Overall, the fund is partially supported by the private sector and primarily by Colombian government, national and international organizations, multilateral bank, and investment funds.
In addition to the funding, SENA will maintain 117 business units to support and advise entrepreneurs from its training centers that are located all over the country.
Not long before announcing the new funding levels, SENA also celebrated its 60th anniversary on June 21. Founded in 195 by Rodolfo Martínez Tono, SENA was inspired by the Brazilian institution SENAI (National Service of industrial Learning). Since then, the main purpose has been to educate professionals in technical and technological programs.
It now maintains more than 500 courses across over 100 programs in areas of design, health, construction, electronic, agricultural, communication, and many others.
Last month in Medellín’s Plaza de las Luces (Plaza of Lights), a photography exhibition commemorated the 60 years that SENA has been “giving less fortunate Colombians an opportunity to study, learn a profession, and build a country with more opportunities” said Sebastián Martínez, a designer who graduated from SENA.
In a documentary, “SENA Is Colombia: 60 Years of Building Peace,” Colombians who have studied at the institution offer a host of testimonials expressing how it has helped them learn a new trade.