JIS News

Youths often seen “hanging out” on street corners are not necessarily destined for a life of underachievement and unproductivity, as persons often assume. If given a chance, with the right tools, they can evolve into valuable citizens.
This is the intention of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s Youth Empowerment Strategy (YES) programme, which seeks to assist youths aged 16 to30 who are deemed as at risk and are unemployed.
Administrator for the programme, Sylvester Anderson, tells JIS News that through the programme, many young Jamaicans will be able to use their strengths in a more productive manner.
“Our target groups, persons who are just on the corners doing nothing, we try and get them into this programme, because the emphasis is to try and get as many of these youngsters into a productive endeavour, so that they can be good citizens,” he notes.
YES provides an opportunity for beneficiaries to obtain financial assistance through grants to pursue educational endeavours or entrepreneurial activities, enabling them a sense of independence.
Mr. Anderson explains that the grants are used to help persons who have benefitted from a formal education as well as those who have not.
The programme collaborates with the Jamaica Foundation for Life Long Learning (JFLL) to assist persons who have dropped out of school to return, he notes, adding that “we try and help persons who are attending tertiary institutions as well,” who may have financial difficulties.
One of the earliest beneficiaries of the programme, Stacy-Ann Rhoden, tells JIS News that the programme has enhanced her life, particularly in terms of educational attainment.
“The programme has assisted me tremendously because I was sitting down at home for over 12 years after leaving high school…and then someone introduced me to the programme…I was registered and they have paid for my schooling for the entire year and paid for my examinations and I am now awaiting the results which I hope will be a great one,” she says.
In terms of the entrepreneurship aspect, the YES Administrator says that whatever venture persons would like to engage in, is assessed to determine whether or not the programme can help.
“Certainly, there are a number of persons who are doing their little thing and who want to do something…and we try and help them. A very popular means is that of chicken rearing right now.but we help persons in whatever entrepreneurial activities they want to venture in. Once we think that it’s a legal activity, it will not cross the borders of the municipal authority, or break the law, we try and help you there,” Mr. Anderson says.
The YES programme also has a social requirement that beneficiaries are expected to fulfil.
“One of the beautiful things with this programme is that even though persons are not asked to repay anything they are asked to give back, what we call social responsibility or social requirement and there are two components to that social requirement,” Mr. Anderson notes.
The first component, he points out, speaks to participants making contributions to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), which is a compulsory contributory funded social security plan, once they have started to earn.
“The second thing is that because you have benefitted, you should give back to your community. So the whole give back aspect, that whole act of charity we are trying to encourage that so we want persons to adhere to that,” he notes.
Apart from collaboration with the JFLL, the programme has also sought partnerships with other agencies such as the Heart Trust/NTA in administering its activities. Assistance may also be provided to beneficiaries in partnership with the Ministry’s partners to provide training, basic job placement and counselling for the youths.
The YES Administrator informs that there is now increased emphasis on getting involved with youth groups and youth clubs, as the programme continues to extend its reach.
“So we’ll be trying to partner with the Social Development Commission (SDC) (since) they have a strong connection there…because there are a number of persons within those youth clubs who…we want to reach,” he notes.
“Outside of that, we are trying to see also how we can continue our work with the police, through their local youth clubs…and just by talking to school principals, guidance counsellors, the church, we just try and tap into as many organisations and persons as possible,” he adds.
All applicants will need a valid form of photo identification, such as a national ID, drivers licence or passport; a letter of recommendation form either a Justice of the Peace, Minister of Religion, an officer from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (rank of Sergeant and above) or Jamaica Defence Force, an Attorney-at-Law or a teacher.
Other documents required include a letter of request addressed to the Permanent Secretary in the Labour Ministry outlining the area of interest; a school leaving certificate, examination results or school record; and a Tax Registration Number (TRN) or National Insurance Scheme (NIS) card.
Stacy-Ann urges other youngsters to sign up with the YES Programme. “I would just encourage any and every body who is sitting down doing nothing and there is something that you think you can do, to just get enrolled in the programme and it will be beneficial in the long run,” she says.
An islandwide initiative introduced in 2008, the YES programme, has as its motto: ‘Break the Chain, You will Create the Change’. For more information, visit any of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s offices island wide or call 922-9308.

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