Wed | Dec 13, 2017

Hundreds hungry for HOPE - Recruiters swamped as youths hunt job, training lifeline

Published:Wednesday | June 21, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

Coordinators of the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) programme initially planned to target 500 young people, as they convened the first registration session at the Jamaica College auditorium in St Andrew yesterday.

However, unattached youths turned out in droves, desperately seeking employment opportunities. More than 1,000 of them the coordinators counted.

"We had to send back to HEART to print more forms, because we don't want anybody to be left behind. It goes to show that there is the need. As I went around, interviewed, sat and discussed with some of the potential participants, I was so pleased with what I was hearing. These are people who genuinely want to learn something," Lieutenant Colonel Martin Rickman, national coordinator of the programme, told The Gleaner.

He said that the initiative is seeking to train persons between the ages of 18 and 24 who are unemployed or out of school and place them in government agencies as apprentices. He said, more important, that youths will be introduced to values and attitudes training which will assist in their holistic development.

Rickman, however, indicated that there is the constant challenge of trying to convince youths to turn away from crime such as the lotto scam, which, in some cases, seems more lucrative.

"There are several challenges, which will include trying to convince all youngsters in Jamaica that they will be coming on a programme where they will develop their skills to earn a stipend to eventually live better in life, rather than going to a life of crime," he continued.

He said though the process will start with government agencies, quite a number of private-sector companies are showing widespread interest. The national coordinator also stressed that the programme will be disseminated islandwide and, as such, encouraged young people to get on board.

"I expect this programme to become a national fixture in Jamaica. I absolutely believe in this programme. It needs to transcend any sort of administration and become this national fixture. There are a number of efforts that I'm making to ensure that it is as non-politically oriented as possible," Rickman told The Gleaner.

"We really need to look at the future of Jamaica. I want them (youths) to understand that they are all important and vital resources and are a part of this country."

Shantel Daye, 23, was among the group who turned up at the auditorium. She is hoping that this will be an opportunity to fulfil her dream of becoming a make-up artist.

"I saw it on WhatsApp this morning and I just dropped everything and came. I was going to school, but the school fee increased and I had to stop. I was searching for jobs, but no success, so I'm just sitting at home," she said.

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com