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NYS Introduces New Programmes to Empower Young People

Chair of the National Youth Service (NYS), Maureen Webber emphasizes a point as she addresses a recent JIS News Think Tank. Listening at left is Executive Director of the NYS, Melvin Smith. Chair of the National Youth Service (NYS), Maureen Webber emphasizes a point as she addresses a recent JIS News Think Tank. Listening at left is Executive Director of the NYS, Melvin Smith.
KINGSTON, January 15, 2015- The National Youth Service (NYS) has expanded its programme offerings to more effectively meet the needs of the country’s young people.

Chair of the NYS Board, Maureen Webber, told JIS  that a range of products were introduced in 2013/14, targeted at young entrepreneurs, persons with disabilities, and at-risk young people, among others.

Among the new initiatives are the Entrepreneurship Programme, the Enrichment Programme, Access to Higher Education Programme, Graduate Work Experience Programme (GWEP), Empowerment Programme, and the Events Management and Production Programme.

Ms. Webber, who has been Chair of the NYS Board for almost three years, says the introduction of the new programmes came out of concern about the limited retention of NYS’ participants after they had completed their core training and work-experience placements.

She informs that only about three to five per cent of participants were retained by institutions in which they were placed.

“You would take young persons, who would spend nine months to a year attending core programmes, and place them in a library or at an early childhood facility or as a community health aide. At the end of the period that was it; you were not retained by the particular agency,” she laments.

She says the board felt that the youth organisation was not “serving the needs of the broad spectrum of young persons.”

“We have young persons in colleges, what do they need for support? We have young persons with disabilities, who is supporting them? We have persons with at-risk issues, how are we supporting them? So the board made a decision to diversify our programme offerings,” she points out.

Citing the GWEP Programme, Ms. Webber informs that tertiary graduates, up to age 24 years, can now gain valuable work experience through the initiative.

She explains that participants are placed in small to medium-sized firms for up to six months, during which the NYS pays a stipend to assist with travelling expenses. “That programme has about 500 young persons now who are placed,” she boasts.

Turning to plans for this year, Ms. Webber cites the improvement of services offered to persons with disabilities, and the launch of a Youth Road Map to Success initiative, created after feedback from Express YuhSelf workshops held last year, with some 4,500 young people across the island.

Youth Road Map to Success will provide a complete set of guidance materials, which can be presented in a classroom environment, but will be augmented with youth- friendly, online support facilities. The online resources will include résumé creation and self-assessment tools, apps and links to self-development databases.

Ms. Webber also mentions collaboration with the Jamaica 4-H Clubs on programmes for rural youth.

Ms. Webber notes that the NYS will be seeking increased support from public and private sector partners to develop new products and services for the development of young people.

Executive Director of the NYS, Melvin Smith, in elaborating on the new programming offerings, mentioned the Empowerment Programme, which was created for unattached youth, to guide them towards possible career options and participation in voluntary, cultural and sporting activities.

“We engage them, their guardians, parents, in an initial workshop to ensure that they are interested and then we assess where their needs are,” Mr. Smith says, noting that persons, who are in need of skills training and remedial literacy and numeracy, are directed to programmes that will help to empower them to the next step in their career path.

He also cites the National Youth Entrepreneurship Competition titled ‘The Pitch,’ which targeted some 200 young persons in selected parishes during the last quarter of 2013/14. Mr. Smith says the finalists participated in entrepreneurship training sessions, which included individual business development coaching for six months.

The competition was eventually won by Kawaine Anderson of St. Mary who, along with the other two finalists, received funds to boost their businesses.

“They are all winners. All of them came to us with an exciting idea or with some need or desire for entrepreneurship and we put them through some paces. We had them write business plans, we give them coaching and all that, so whether they were number one, two or three in the competition, they are all winners because they have advanced their ideas and approach towards starting their own business,” he tells JIS News.

He says that lessons learned from this programme will inform the implementation of another competition in 2015/16.

Part of the Youth Entrepreneurship Programme is the Entrepreneurship 101 Sensitisation Sessions mainly for fifth and sixth form high school students and persons from community youth groups.

“We provide information about what entrepreneurship is all about. How do you go from an idea to a business plan? What makes an idea sellable? That programme has been very successful to date. During Youth Month, we actually engaged over 1,600 youth in various sessions,” he informs.

Mr. Smith notes that persons, who participate in the sensitisation sessions, will be asked to attend a more “intensive entrepreneur programme” that would lead up to another Pitch in a year’s time.”

The Executive Director tells JIS News that the NYS, which is an agency of the Ministry of Youth and Culture, will continue to leverage the “good relations” developed with public and private sector entities for the support of its programmes.

“We are planning now for 2015/2016 to 2017/18 and in that three-year period, we are looking to leverage those kinds of relationship for the youth of Jamaica,” he tells JIS News.

Ms. Webber, in the meantime, is lauding the NYS’ staff for their “creativity and energies” in developing and executing programmes for the youth.

“We are all energised about serving our clients. Young people are our clients and how you serve your clients and honour what your clients ask of you and how you provide follow-up and support for your client: that is where the NYS is today,” she says.

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