SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc on Monday unveiled its first training center in Latin America for coders and entrepreneurs, encouraging technology careers for young Brazilians saddled with staggering unemployment after a deep economic crisis.
The company's regional Vice President Diego Dzodan told Reuters the space in mid-town São Paulo, known as Estação Hack, will bridge the gap in Brazil between a tech sector hungry for skilled talent and an eager but untrained generation with time on their hands.
"Imagine the opportunity," Dzodan said in an interview at Facebook's Latin America headquarters. "You've got people without a job, so they can't afford training. And yet there's so much demand for positions that the market can't fill."
One in four Brazilians aged 18 to 24, most with more formal education than their parents, were unemployed at the start of the year, as the country's worst downturn on record stunted the careers of a generation of young workers.
Facebook's 1,000-square-meter space on the bustling Avenida Paulista is slated to open by December, offering free coding courses, career guidance, entrepreneur training and digital marketing workshops for 7,400 Brazilians in its first year.
Dzodan said Estação Hack or "Hack Station" would draw on lessons from outreach projects like the Startup Garage in Paris, opened by Facebook in January, but was tailored to Brazil. For example, the Sao Paulo space offers workstations and mentoring for entrepreneurs focused on projects with social impact.
The initiative is one of several in Sao Paulo where major firms are making the most of a tech-savvy subculture — and a slump in the commercial real estate market — to create branded spaces for innovation in Latin America's biggest business hub.
In June 2016, Alphabet Inc opened the six-story Google Campus Sao Paulo, a half dozen blocks south of the new Facebook space, also offering mentoring for startups, training for entrepreneurs and free community events.
Last week, Brazilian bank Itaú Unibanco Holding SA announced it was quadrupling its Cubo co-working space for tech startups, a joint investment with venture capital firm Redpoint eventures, which moves to a 12-floor building in Sao Paulo's financial district in June 2018.
Dzodan, who declined to say how much Facebook was spending on its new space, said the impact would be measured in participants rather than brick-and-mortar investments.
"The maximum impact will come from training and education," he said. "The multiplier effect of that is much greater than infrastructure."
(Reporting by Brad Haynes and Alberto Alerigi Jr.; Editing by Andrew Hay)