KINGSTON — The Ministries of Labour and Social Security, and Youth, Sports, and Culture are cooperating on the Steps-to-Work Summer Camp, to give some 1,300 high school dropouts, ages 15 to 18 years, an opportunity to develop literacy and job skills to re-enter the school system, or seek employment.
The programme, which also involves the National Youth Service (NYS), is designed to provide troubled youths with a second chance to identify and develop lifelong goals.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Pearnel Charles and Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Hon. Olivia Grange, signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the Labour Ministry, in Kingston on Wednesday, July 6, to formally solidify the partnership.
Following the signing, Miss Grange noted that the non-residential summer camp was in response to the high level of secondary school drop outs in PATH (Programme for Advancement through Health and Education) households.
She said the personal development curriculum, formulated by the NYS, will guide the youths involved to building appropriate and positive values and attitudes.
The Youth Minister said that, it is hoped that, through the curriculum, individuals will develop a certain level of self respect for those in authority, as well as an interest in lifelong learning.
“Along with our partners HEART/Trust NTA and the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL), this programme will engender a holistic individual, powerful in youth citizenry, constructive in cultural and social relations, and productive, hopefully, in wealth creation,” she noted.
Mr. Charles said the Steps-to-Work programme has been one of the many good things happening in Jamaica.
“We are going to be bringing 1,300 young people into an environment that is different from where they are coming from, giving them a second chance. Because, if you drop out of school, you drop out of society and you are on your way to another institution,” he cautioned.
Mr. Charles said that the programme offers an alternative to youngsters, so that they can “head back” onto the right path and improve their lives and the lives of those around them.
In 2009, the Steps-to-Work project identified the need for intervention at the high school level, based on the number of PATH students who were not eligible to receive benefits because they had ‘dropped out’ of school.
The first camp was held in Albert Town, Trelawny and, based on its success Steps-to-Work, in 2010 also partnered with the NYS, the HEART/Trust NTA, JFLL, the National Centre for Youth Development, the Social Development Commission and five school communities to offer five summer camps to 500 participants, with 100 persons taking part in each camp.
Director of Social Security in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Denzil Thorpe, said these youths were unprepared to enter the job market, as they were unskilled, untrained and largely unfocused in terms of future development. He said the group was therefore particularly prone to negative social influences.
Mr. Thorpe also stated that the five camps held last year, proved to be very successful, with 338 of the 476 participants who completed the course being registered into the Ministry of Education’s Career Advancement Programme (CAP).
Based on the success of the 2010 programme, Steps-to-Work has decided to increase the number of summer camps to 13 this year. These will be held right across the island, with 1,300 youths, aged 15 to 18 years, participating with 100 participants in each camp.
The main objectives of the camp, he said, are to re-engage Steps-to-Work clients into continued education or skills development to improve their levels of literacy and in numeracy, through a curriculum developed by JFLL; to create behaviour changes, through the personal development curriculum by the NYS and Programme for Alternate Student Support (PASS); and to introduce at least one skill area per child, through a curriculum developed by HEART-Trust NTA.
Each camp is scheduled to last for four weeks and the series of camps will begin on July 11, in St. Thomas and Portland. They are scheduled to be completed on August 26.Campers will be required to attend an orientation session with their parents or guardians prior to the start of the camp. At the end of the camp participants will again be assessed for possible placement.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter