PORT ANTONIA – The potential for employment and the ability to pursue a successful career path can be greatly enhanced, if persons are adequately prepared.
Although most school leavers choose to pursue tertiary education after graduating, being prepared for any eventuality will offer options that may become necessary, especially with the challenges currently existing in the labour market.
With the great demand for jobs and its limited availability, young school leavers in St. Mary and St Ann, are being presented with opportunities, through a pilot training programme established by the National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD) St. Mary, in collaboration with the HEART Trust and the National Youth Service (NYS).
According to Youth Empowerment Officer at the NCYD, Dwayne Forbes, the pilot project offers training in a number of areas for high school students, as they prepare to join the labour force.
“One of the main aims of the NCYD is to engage young people in positive activities, that will prepare and empower them with the requisite skills and abilities needed to successfully gain employment,” he said.
“To achieve this, we have been working closely with a number of youth clubs and schools, as we seek to engage them in the different roles they can undertake to be successful in the career of their choice,” he added.
According to Mr. Forbes, based on a study done by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) in 2006, it was discovered that approximately 70% of students leaving school, had no form of qualification entering into the labour force and were unemployable.
“They did not understand the importance of a resume, or how to prepare themselves for an interview, therefore, our aim is to develop programmes that can satisfy these needs,” he said.
Mr. Forbes explained that the pilot project, which began in January, has facilitated over 800 students in eight high schools in St. Mary, including St. Mary High, Islington High, Annotto Bay High, Brimmer Vale High, Oracabessa High and St. Mary Technical High School.
At the end of the first phase of the project, which should be completed by the end of April, it is expected that an additional four high schools will be visited. He also stated that the second phase will commence in April in St. Ann, and that aspect of the exercise is expected to be completed in June.
According to him, during the visits they conduct workshops, seminars, counselling sessions, career days and mock interviews. He said that, on completion of this aspect of the programme, NCYD will present a report and recommendations, so that it can be strengthened and expanded, nationally.
“The feedback we receive from the schools has been good, and our team has recognized how we can further expand the programme, to look at other critical areas such as encouraging entrepreneurship and matching personality traits types with skills and occupational areas,” he explained.
Emphasizing the need for much more technical and financial support, Mr. Forbes said it would enhance their ability to hold more intimate workshops with the students, to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
He said the progamme is specifically designed for students who are still in high school, who need to be adequately prepared to seek employment or create their own employment. He added that it will help to lessen the burden on other agencies, such as the National Youth Service, while empowering them.
Stating that the NCYD has a thrust for entrepreneurship, as a policy position, he explained that it is one of the main components and focal point of the policy.
“It is therefore important to understand that there is a direct link to what we are doing in the schools and the National Youth Policy,” he said.
He pointed out that additional funding would greatly enhance the ability of the programme to achieve much more, as not only does the centre want to introduce entrepreneurship to young people, but also wants to work with the Office of the Social Entrepreneurship Unit at the University of the West Indies (UWI), and the Youth Crime Watch of Jamaica, to do business plan clinics.
Career Development Officer at HEART Trust NTA in St Ann’s Bay, Mellesa Hedge-Smith, said the role of her agency was to assist in improving the employable skills employers are looking for, and to assist the students to achieve the level needed to gain employment.
Youth Empowerment Officer at the NCYD in St. Ann, Anisa Wilson, said it will have a tremendous impact on the parish, “as we seek to build skills in career development.” She said that the approach being taken will train them in life skills, and empower them to seek employment opportunities globally.
Guidance Cousellor at Annotto Bay High School, Sasha-Gay McDermott, commended the organizers of the programme, and said it was a good attempt to help students prepare for the working world and for entrepreneurship.
Alecia Chaplin and Roman Donaldson, both grade 11 students at the school, were happy for the opportunity to participate in the workshops, as they have become more confident and better equipped for interviews.
“We learnt about the many training opportunities available at HEART, we were taught etiquette and the correct procedures to follow while preparing for and attending a professional interview. Overall, we believe it was an educational workshop,” she said.
By LORNA WILLIAMS