JIS News

Young people in St. Mary and St. Ann will be exposed to employment opportunities as well as self-development skills, when the National Youth Service (NYS) takes its Youth Opportunities Fairs to both parishes later this month.
The fair in St. Mary is scheduled for October 17 at the Claude Stewart Park in Port Maria, while on October 24, St. Hilda Diocesan High School will be the venue for the event in St. Ann. Both fairs will start at 9:00 a.m.
Launched in August with support from the HEART Trust/NTA, the fairs are projected to last until March 2004 and are intended to benefit unemployed and out of school youth across the island. Already, events have been held in Portland, Westmoreland, and St. Elizabeth, each attracting over 1, 000 participants, and according to its organizers, have been met with reasonable success.
Executive Director of the NYS, Reverend Adinhair Jones, told JIS News that, “we basically seek through the fairs, to reach between 10,000 and 14, 000 people throughout the island, and expose them to the opportunities that exist at their parish level and also opportunities that exist beyond the parish.”
Another objective, he indicated, was “to point to the usefulness of considering entrepreneurial activities in relation to what is produced at the parish level.”
According to Rev. Jones, the idea for staging the fairs came from “feedback over the course of the last five years with youth and communities in general around the island.” He said a common complaint was the lack of opportunity for young people.
In tackling the concern raised, Rev. Jones said the NYS and Heart Trust decided to pool their efforts and resources to “respond to the deficit of opportunities by taking these fairs to the parishes.”
He said that youth officers working in the parishes play a significant role in advising their peers about the fairs. “We go out to youth on the corner, on the football field, we go through the churches and through the schools,” he stated.
Each event begins with the registration of the participants and a brief opening ceremony where the young people are told what to expect during the course of the day.
Following the ceremony, the participants go through an assessment process, following which they take part in a ‘Career Planning and Creation’ segment, which Rev. Jones explained, “takes them through the issues of goal setting and looking at individual career plans and their job readiness.” After lunch, they go off to career clinics based on their stated areas of interest. He noted that while all the events entailed core activities such as conducting assessments, “what changes in particular as we move from parish to parish, is the layout of opportunities that exist both in and beyond the parish.” For instance, he explained that in Westmoreland, which is a major tourist parish, obvious focus would be given to careers in the hospitality industry.
He pointed out that before a fair was hosted, a profile of the parish was done to find out what was available in terms of job and training opportunities.
Rev. Jones told JIS News that so far, the fairs have been a “wake-up call” for young people. Explaining, he said that while many persons aspired for careers such as medicine or law, the self-assessment tools provided at the fairs, “were critical in helping these participants come to a good sense at where they are and to decide very quickly what they need to do to appropriately pursue their career interest or goal.” Expressing the hope that the fairs would “make transformations in how young persons pursued career goals”, the NYS Executive Director said, “it is important for Jamaica’s youth to critically understand what is needed if they are going to make it in the world today.”

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