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2005-09-02 17:53:35

Fresh Start: GB Youth To Benefit From Jobs Programme

The Fresh Start programme is a 3-month youth employment skills training effort designed to assist those between 16 and 25 who are out of school, unemployed, lack employment skills

Fresh Start, a programme initiated by former Minister of Youth, Sports, and Culture Zhivargo Laing in the late 90s to address long-term unemployment among youth in New Providence, will shortly be introduced in Grand Bahama.

In a letter circulated to business leaders in Grand Bahama from the Minister of Youth, Sports, and Culture, companies were solicited to partnership with the Fresh Start Programme by providing job placement opportunities for young people, so that they can gain work experience.

Fresh Start participants will receive a stipend of $175 per week while on internship, the letter said, with $75 coming from their place of employment and $100 being the Ministry's contribution. The programme commences on November 14 and will climax on December 23.

The Fresh Start programme is a three-month youth employment skills training effort designed to assist young persons between the ages of 16 and 25 who are out of school, unemployed, lack employment skills, and are looking for work experience. But sometimes persons older than 25 are permitted to join the programme based on their personal situations.

"I'm satisfied that the deputy director of youth along with the assistant director that works out of the Freeport office and the rest of the staff out of the Department of Youth will be able to mobilize the programme down in Grand Bahama," said Minister of Youth, Sports, and Culture Neville Wisdom. "It will be successful."

Queries over why young persons would be out of work for extended periods of time spurred Mr. Laing to launch the Fresh Start programme while he served as Minister of Youth, Sports, and Culture. Upon investigating, he said it was discovered that the problem lies in many of their characters, personal development issues, marketability skills, attitudes, and mental dispositions.

After assessing a similar programme being carried out in Canada, Fresh Start a title given to the programme based on the theory that it would give young persons a new opportunity at making themselves marketable to workplaces was put into effect.

And the programme was not established in vain. Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Culture records show that more than 500 young persons have been placed on jobs to gain work experience with very positive outcomes.

"We had gotten fairly good responses from employers," Mr. Laing proudly said. "In fact, any number of the employers actually called back to indicate that they wanted to renew their participation for the following year and in fact had kept on some of these kids long term.

"A number of these people actually were kept on those jobs because of their performance. Now, what numbers that was I can't say, but it certainly was a significant enough number to encourage us about it."

Mr. Laing said that he can still vividly remember the innumerable amount of letters sent to him by kids who were given an opportunity to enter the workforce through Fresh Start. He disclosed that they leave their places of temporary employment, if they're not hired full-time, with a great deal of confidence, knowing that they can search for jobs on their own without assistance and mindful that they can handle interviews in stride.

Through partnership between the public and private sectors in the Freeport area, Fresh Start hopes to continue to foster a thriving programme in Grand Bahama by commencing to place a total of 30 young persons on internship to gain work experience over a period of six weeks.

Jeremy Francis, Freeport News

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