A four-day workshop to train 25 guidance counsellors and teachers, has kicked off an innovative initiative to take vital life skills to students in 20 schools across Jamaica. Held February 21-24 at the Medallion Hall Hotel, the ‘trainer of trainers’ workshop is part of the internationally acclaimed ‘Passport to Success Programme’ of the International Youth Foundation (IYF). It is being piloted in Jamaica’s school system by the Ministry of Education in association with the IYF and Youth Upliftment Through Employment (YUTE), with support from the British High Commission.
The IYF, a US-based not-for-profit organisation, builds worldwide multi-sector partnerships to empower young people to be healthy, productive and engaged citizens. According to IYF Executive Vice President, Business Development Peter Shiras, the Passport to Success Programme features a curriculum which has been developed and refined over more than a decade, and which has already benefited over 80,000 young people in 30 countries, who have completed the curriculum.
“We target vulnerable youth 14 to 24-year-olds,” he explains, “those in school but at risk of dropping out, as well as those out of school, out of work or working in dangerous situations. The range of critical skills taught includes self-confidence, teamwork, communication and interpersonal skills, problem-solving and decision-making. These have been shown to be much needed and highly valuable, not only to help youngsters complete their education but to provide them with the soft skills required for entry-level employment.”
Dr Grace McLean, Chief Education Officer with the Ministry of Education, notes that the guidance counsellors, coaches and other selected teachers from across the island will be taking the programme’s experiential, student-centred methodology to students enrolled in the Ministry’s Career Advancement Programme (CAP).
“These students represent the next generation of Jamaica’s labour force,” she points out, adding, “reaching them with soft skills which encourage completing education, facilitating employment readiness and which strengthen self-confidence will truly be an excellent contribution to nation building.
“Jamaica, like so many other countries worldwide, faces a serious challenge in preparing young people for life, with the increasingly complex, competitive and often threatening world that faces them. Our at-risk youth face especially stiff odds. We are therefore very optimistic about the benefits that Passport to Success has already brought to youngsters in other countries, and we look forward to rolling it out to schools across Jamaica, once it has been successfully piloted here.”
Alicia Glasgow Gentles, Executive Director of YUTE, noted that her organisation and its partners are especially appreciative of the support of the British High Commission for the funding provided to implement the pilot. The High Commission is assisting the Programme to the tune of 10,000 British pounds sterling. The 18-month Programme covers training of trainers, 12 months of implementation of the curriculum in schools, and ongoing support by YUTE coaches.
The IYF Passport To Success Programme will be piloted to CAP students in 10 parishes. The schools are: Penwood High, St. Annie’s High, Edith Dalton James High, Trench Town Polytechnic Institute, Excelsior Community College, Tivoli High, Denham Town High, the College of Agricultural Science & Education (CASE), Portmore Community College, Cumberland High, Kellits High, Maggoty High, Cross Keys High, Brown’s Town High, Holland High, Steer Town Academy, Green Pond High, Knockalva High, St. James High and the Western Hospitality Institute.