KINGSTON — Several young people from across the country are lauding the various youth-focused programmes implemented by the public and private sector, which they say, have transformed their lives and have given them a fighting chance for success.
The programmes include, the government-sponsored National Youth Service (NYS), the Youth Upliftment Through Employment (YUTE) project, which is organised by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) and Diageo’s Learning for Life initiative.
Stacey-Ann Riley, who was among a group of youngsters, who recently gave their testimonials during a rap session with Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Hon. Olivia Grange and Commonwealth Secretary-General, His Excellency Kamalesh Sharma at a seminar in Kingston, says she is grateful for the opportunities and support she has been afforded under the NYS.
The Jonathan Grant High School graduate informs that through the programme, she received the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant at the Spanish Town Primary school for six months after successfully completing a month-long training session in 2010.
She says this was a very welcomed opportunity, as after leaving high school she was unable to find employment and was basically sitting at home with nothing to do for several months.
“While at Spanish Town Primary, I learned how to be more assertive and how to use my initiative to teach, because I didn’t know I had it in me. It also helped me to build my character and my self-esteem and to think more about my future,” she notes.
Stacey-Ann further explains that after completing the six-month tenure at the NYS she was able to land a job as an administrative assistant to the Programmes Director and the Executive Director of the NYS.
She also now serves as Secretary to the National Youth Improvement Committee at the NYS. “One of the things this committee is looking at is to see how we can better the programmes offered by NYS, to see how they can be more creative and interesting for youths. Also we’re looking at how we can get persons who are physically challenged to come into the programme,” she informs.
Naijah Forbes, who has also benefitted from the NYS, explains that after graduating from St. George’s College, “I was just at home not doing anything and I saw a window open up through the NYS. I entered a one month training programme in which we learned about dress code, code of conduct, interview skills and how to speak to people. We learned how to interact with people and how to exchange opinions.”
Naijah informs that after the training programme ended he was placed at the Balmagie Primary School in Waterhouse, St. Andrew to work as a teaching assistant for six months. “It was great. I went back to my alma mater and helped my former teacher to organise her class and set assignments,” he informs.
Following the completion of his training as a teaching aide, Naijah says he received a job at the NYS head offices as an administrative assistant and “it has been a pleasure working with the agency. “ I can say that they are doing a lot for the inner city youths out there,” he remarks.
YUTE, Participant, Jermaine Remikie, says he has benefitted tremendously from the programme, which has taken him off a pathway of idleness and possibly crime, to one of development and eventual success. “The programme is doing a lot, for not only me, but for other young people like myself. So far we have been through a lot of training which has helped me to be a better person,” he informs.
The Arnette Gardens resident, who has joined the programme to develop his entrepreneurial skills, as well as his relational skills, explains that before YUTE he basically spent his days doing nothing.
“I used to just wake up every morning giving thanks for life and hoping for an opportunity like this to come along that I could execute,” he says.
Jermaine is presently participating in the ‘YUTE U-Turn’ chapter of the programme, which provides an opportunity for youths in the inner city to make a turn-around and develop certain life skills and disciplines while getting skills training.
He informs that since joining the programme, he has participated in several workshops and training sessions in mediation, conflict resolution and team-work focus groups. He has also participated in a training camp in St. Ann.
“At first, when I started this programme it was a great pleasure because it felt good to know that the private sector and the government really cared and was thinking about the people in the inner city. It is a great feeling to be a part of (YUTE) because it’s changing my life right now.
He continues: “The programme is doing a great thing for me in terms of my ideas about life, (while providing the) opportunity to be placed in a job and to really know how to do the job,” Jermaine remarks.
Olympic Gardens resident, Omar Rhoden says he too, is thankful to YUTE for giving the youths of the inner city a second chance. “I really thank them for this opportunity to help us along with school and with training for the work world. The programme has helped me a lot because it helps me to see what I want to do in my future,” he states.
Learning for Life participant, Wayne Swaby notes that he has received more respect in his community since enrolling in the Diageo Bars-to-Go programme.
The programme, which is spearheaded by Redstripe in partnership with HEART Trust/NTA, provides training in food and beverages, hospitality, bar management, and customer relations to young adults in the inner city and prepares them for a career in bartending or related fields.
Waynesays that since joining the programme he has been regarded as a role model in his Papine, St Andrew community and has encouraged many of his peers to take advantage of similar opportunities. “This programme has taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to by just taking a chance. It has changed my outlook on life,” says the Mona High School graduate.
Lauding the work of the Government and the PSOJ, National Youth Ambassador for Youth in Business, Rayon Goulbourne says the programmes are regarded as a “lifeline” for many inner city youths.
“Over time we have seen where mentorship and training were among the deficiencies within the system, as it relates to assistance for our youth. However there are now a number of programmes that have served to fill the gap so that youths can be better able to empower themselves,” he states.
“We, as youths, are now empowered to provide employment for ourselves, or to work well within a traditional working environment,” he adds.
Rayon says, however, that a lack of youth friendly financing opportunities is one area that still remains a concern for many young people. “We now want to be in a position where we can put all our training and resources together, and bring them to the financial institutions, and get greater financing support for our innovative and entrepreneurial initiatives,” he says.
The Youth Ambassador argues that the provision of suitable training, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for Jamaican youths is very critical to their overall empowerment and development as worthwhile citizens.
In the meantime, Minister Grange thanked the private sector for assisting the government in creating more opportunities for training and employment for the youth of Jamaica.
She further commends the PSOJ for introducing the programme YUTE, which she says has given many youngsters a hand in pulling themselves up and out of poverty.
The findings of the recently concluded Jamaica National Youth Survey (JNYS), shows that training and employment was viewed as very important to most Jamaican youths.
The survey finds that less than a third or 30 per cent of Jamaican youths reported that they had received some training for a job or occupation. Of this amount, 71 per cent were in the 20 to 24 age group, with 51 per cent being male and 43 per cent from rural areas.
It also indicates that of the youths, who received training, 29 per cent were trained as craft and related trade workers, while 28 per cent received training as service workers and shop and market sales workers. Additionally, 17 per cent of the youths were trained as clerks, 15 per cent as “professionals” and eight per cent as technicians and associate professionals.
The JNYS further shows that 39 per cent of the youths were trained “on the job,” while 32 per cent were trained via HEART/NTA programmes, and 10 per cent in high schools through the Ministry of Education’s Career Advancement Programme (CAP).
Additionally, the study indicates a majority of young Jamaicans would like to receive training as professionals. When asked for what job or occupation they would like to be trained, 38 per cent indicated that they would like to be trained as professionals, while an additional 19 per cent said they would like to be trained as service workers and shop and market sales workers; 16 per cent as craft and related trades workers; and 13 per cent as technicians and associate professionals.
It was also found that a lack of financing was the main challenge faced by young people in accessing adequate or additional training opportunities. A third of the respondents or 31 per cent indicated that they could not afford additional training.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter