In the last five years trade zones have representatively boosted and sustained work in regions where they are installed.
Due to the rapid growth of the Free Zones industry this has generated a constant labor demand and thus an increase of employment rates in the regions where these industrial complexes are located, which finally results in a stimulus to the economy.
The figures indicate that in the last five years direct employment in free zones has doubled, going from 29,000 to over 62 000, while indirect employment has tripled, as in 2009 it had 51,576 positions and 166,693 by December 2014.
The state that contributes the most to the generation of jobs in the country’s Free Zones is Cundinamarca, as it currently has 31,000 direct jobs, followed by Cauca, with 7,437, and third is Bolivar, with 5,935. In total, taking into account indirect employment rates, free zones reported more than 220,000 jobs across the country.
However, according to Edgar Martinez, director of the Cámara de Usuarios de Zonas Francas de la Asociación Nacional de Empresario de Colombia –ANDI-, “Free trade zones have found that the level of training and preparedness of the workforce is weak to respond to the needs of the industries. The level of education and technologists in the regions is low and therefore we’ve been working with entities such as SENA and other educational institutions to create technical programs in line with the demand of the industries.” It should be noted that this initiative, which is a training opportunity for people in the surrounding areas, has been promoted by the same companies in their quest to provide optimal training for all its employees.
A case in point is the training program developed by the Zona Franca de Occidente, in partnership with CESVI Colombia (Centro de Experimentación y Seguridad Vial Colombia S.A). The company, with support from SENA, imparts training to technicians in automotive paint and bodywork. Apprentices in this case have the opportunity to develop their productive stage in one of the companies in the free zone with the possibility of linking. Also, business management programs, environmental management and integrated logistics technology program management through the Fundación Universitaria Monserrate.
Other examples are the programs driven by the Free Zones of Bogota, Bucaramanga, Pereira, Barranquilla, Cali and Cartagena, in partnership with SENA and universities they offer varied programs and training to develop highly skilled work available the industry.