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    • One hundred young persons with intellectual disability are to receive career and personal development training under the National Youth Service (NYS) Empowerment Programme.
    • The pilot programme is slated to commence in January 2015, and will target young people ages 17 to 24 years in five parishes.
    • Deputy Director, Community Services, NYS, Nickeshia Lindsay, said the initiative is part of a suite of new programmes being undertaken by the NYS, as it seeks to increase employment opportunities for young people with disabilities.

    One hundred young persons with intellectual disability are to receive career and personal development training under the National Youth Service (NYS) Empowerment Programme.

    The pilot programme is slated to commence in January 2015, and will target young people ages 17 to 24 years in five parishes.

    Deputy Director, Community Services, NYS, Nickeshia Lindsay, said the initiative is part of a suite of new programmes being undertaken by the NYS, as it seeks to increase employment opportunities for young people with disabilities.

    “Ultimately, what we hope to achieve is emersion into the society. We want to break down the barriers of seclusion or any stigma that exists, which makes these persons unable to achieve their full potential,” she explained.

    Ms. Lindsay was speaking with JIS News during the second day of a week-long training and sensitisation workshop for job coaches attached to the empowerment programme, being held at the Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston from December 8 to 12.

    She informed that the job coaches will be deployed across five parishes, namely Kingston and St. Andrew, Clarendon, St. Catherine, St. James and Westmoreland, to mentor and train young people with mild intellectual disability over the course of seven months.

    Ms. Lindsay noted that the first phase of the programme will include a three-week camp, where participants will be exposed to life and survival skills, character development, volunteerism, cultural awareness and career planning, among other things.

    Programmes Manager, NYS, Naketa West, said thereafter, job coaches will be engaged to work with the youth as well as the participating companies, to ensure that there is an understanding between the requirements of the employers and the needs of employees with intellectual disability.

    This will be followed by a three-month supported work experience where the persons with disabilities are not left on their own to navigate through the world of work, but will be guided through the experience by the job coaches.

    The NYS has been working closely with the Jamaica Association on Intellectual Disabilities to prepare and sensitise the staff in dealing with persons with disabilities.

    “We really want to engage persons with mild intellectual disability, to help them to build their capacity, so they can successfully transition into the labour force,” Ms. West said.

    “We will seek to identify their skills, abilities and interests and work with them for the duration of the programme to maximise those skills,” she added.

    Ms. Lindsay further encouraged local businesses to come on board and to participate in what she deemed a worthwhile endeavour.

    “We are encouraging stakeholders to come on board and help to create opportunities for these young people, who have the ability, but just need the space to demonstrate their skills,” she said.

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