Fresh Start Initiative Helps Youth Prepare For Workplace
NASSAU, The Bahamas – As the current cycle of the Department of Youth’s Fresh Start Programme enters its third week, participants lauded the job-readiness initiative and its role in preparing young Bahamians for the workforce.
“This is a great experience that I have had, one that most young people in The Bahamas should go through,” said 21-year-old Felecia Williams, on October 12, 2010.
“Maybe if more young people would take part, we have better customer service and attitudes. It also teaches us about writing resumes, cover letters and what is expected of us on the job, especially work ethics and teamwork.”
“It’s been a good programme so far,” said participant Theresa Johnson.
“I have learned how to present yourself in the work force and how to ‘sell’ yourself, your abilities.
“That means that more than what your resume could do, your face and attitude will do. You are not just a cover page. Make sure that your face, attitude and body language goes along with that, too.”
Ian Green, Jr., 18, said they learned a lot from the programme, from physical appearance to sexual harassment and how to “go out and grab the job that you want”. He added that it was encouraging to see the balance of males and females taking part in this cycle and his fellow male participants were showing interest in what was presented.
“It also makes me feel good to be here because The Bahamas is lacking young men who want to go out and grab their jobs,” Mr. Green said.
“We have 47 excited and highly-motivated young Bahamians in this cycle, who are driven to learn what they can to be ready to shine in the Bahamas’ workforce,” said co-ordinator for the current cycle Mr. Lionel Elliott.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Charles Maynard said that Fresh Start is one of the more successful programmes in the Department of Youth, in terms of the high level of young people becoming permanently employed.
“We want to do our best to help to ensure that young people go into the business world being productive,” Minister Maynard said.
According to Mr. Elliott, the Fresh Start programme was created in 1999 and implemented to address the concern of long-term unemployment among the nation’s youth, following the findings of a 1993 committee appointed to study the special needs of the young people in The Bahamas and to make recommendations to the Bahamas Government for the positive development of the youth as an integral part of national planning and development.
“In an effort to continue to address the concern of long-term unemployment, lack of job search skills and the lack of work place experience among our youth, the Fresh Start Programme was introduced,” Mr. Elliott said.
“The Fresh Start Programme was designed to provide training to young persons between the ages of 16 and 25 years with job search and job retention skills.”
The Programme consists of three components as follows: Job Readiness / Personal Development and Computer, Community Service and Internship /Apprenticeship. Mr. Elliott – who has more than 26-years’ experience in youth enrichment and employment training and exercises – added that the objectives of the Fresh Start Programme include to appropriately prepare young persons for employment, to identify potential employment opportunities, to encourage participants to be more proactive when seeking jobs, to continue greater public/private sector collaboration in youth training and employment and to develop a tracking system to measure the effectiveness of the Fresh Start Programme.
According to printed literature, persons wishing to participate in the programme can collect an application form from the Youth Department, Department of Labour, Department of Social Services, any of the Urban Renewal Offices and various Community and Youth Centres in New Providence. Also, each participant is required to complete and submit an application form along with a police certificate, two passport photos, two character references and copies of relevant certificates and other accomplishments.
Mr. Elliott said that, upon the successful completion of the Community Service aspect of the programme, each participant is given an internship. The Internship component of the programme is done over a six-week period. It again requires a partnership between the private and public sectors, he said. This partnership requires that private and public sector companies allow participants of the programme to enter the workforce and gain hands on training in the area in which they expressed interest, he added.
“Participants are required to perform all task assigned to them in an effective and efficient manner,” Mr. Elliott said.
“We hope that at the end of internship, companies would grant permanent employment to each of the participants. However, if they are not granted permanent employment, the participants’ names are kept in a database and are advised of additional employment opportunities.”
“The whole programme is designed to give the young participants some basic tips on how to get a job and stay employed, with some training in the various areas of employment,” Minister Maynard said.
“Because of the programme’s reputation, over the years, and because of the various businesses that partner with this Ministry, most of the young people end up becoming permanent at various establishments,” Minister Maynard added. Ms. Temika Davis said that she met several interesting young people in the class and appreciated the various instructors who came in to their sessions to teach them about having a job. However, there was one topic that truly struck a chord for her.
“I learned about entrepreneurship and I would like to have my own business one day,” she said.
“The whole programme was a fun experience and all the participants benefited from being a part of this.”
“What Mr. Elliott and the other presenters share with us is definitely something I can see myself using when I join the workforce,” Ms. Williams said.
“It will help me better myself in what I choose to accomplish.”
By Eric Rose
Bahamas Information Services