KINGSTON — Twenty six youths from inner city communities were on Thursday (July 28) presented with certificates for completing a two-month course in youth entrepreneurship and financial literacy.
The project, implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), forms part of the European Union's (EU) Grants of Low Amounts III (GOLAS III) programme, which supports human and community development. It was financed by a $2 million grant from the EU.
Dubbed, 'Step Up Ina Life', it targeted unattached and at risk youths from volatile communities, including Allman Town, Grants Pen, August Town, Tivoli Gardens and Waterhouse, with training provided by the Area Youth Foundation (AYF). They were trained in life skills and entrepreneurship, to build their capacity to start businesses of their own, and equip them with non-perishable income-earning skills.
Speaking at the closing ceremony at the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) headquarters in Kingston, Project Director and Lead Trainer, AYF, Sheila Graham, noted that the participants received 50 hours of structured training on conceptualizing, establishing and operating a business.
Mrs. Graham felt the programme was incredibly successful, with about 12 participants creating their own business plans at the end of the intensive workshops. She noted that of the 30 individuals who started the course, 26 completed it and were presented with certificates.
"This project is a perfect example of what can be done when there are scarce resources and a lot of need, because we were able to maximise our resources by taking advantage of the raw talent and skills of our youth," she stated.
The Project Director also noted that the AYF has trained more than 350 young people, with the assistance of the EU and JSIF, in various programmes over the last year.
Project Officer, JSIF, Rohan Bell, who brought greetings on behalf of JSIF Managing Director, Scarlette Gillings, commended the participants who completed the programme.
"You have my heartiest congratulations on behalf of JSIF and the EU for your accomplishments," he told them. He also advised them on the various routes they could take, to make their projects and plans create real and profitable business ventures.
"You can also get further assistance from many organisations, including the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), or if you are thinking of exporting or just finding the best market for a product that you have made or think that you can make, there is also the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO)," he stated.
He advised the participants that getting together in groups, in which they can support each other's ventures, was a good idea, as they would be able to share ideas and resources and attract funding from local and international organisation, which prefer to fund groups rather than individuals.
EU Representative, Helen Jenkinsson, congratulated the participants, noting that their dedication paid off.
"I'm sure the business plans that you've been working on will help you to find work now, or in the future, either working for somebody else or working as your own bosses," she stated.
She said the EU has pumped close to $1.6 billion to date into the PRP II, as it is believed that improving the living conditions of people is an essential way of giving them hope and security.
Project Participant, Princeyanna Tucker, who spoke on behalf of the graduates, said the programme was a "life changing experience".
"It was life changing, in the sense that many of us didn't get the chance to go to a tertiary institution, where we would have gained the knowledge which we could later use to be a successful professional or entrepreneur," she said. Through the programme they learned how to write business plans, cash flow projections and other business skills.
Two participants were awarded special honours: Princeyanna Tucker received the prize for the Most Outstanding Participant; and David Jemmieson for Best Attendance.
Business proposals emerging from the project included bakery and pastry shop, ice cream parlour, games arcade, bar and lounge.
By Athaliah Reynolds, JIS Reporter