Mon | Mar 8, 2021

Youth leaders call for a wider scope of employment choices

Published:Friday | January 15, 2021 | 12:09 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Ashleigh Onfroy
Ashleigh Onfroy
Johnique Francis.
Johnique Francis.


The National Youth Parliament of Jamaica wants schools to provide more diverse employment options for students to choose from, aside from the skills gained under curricula such as STEM - which focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Ashleigh Onfroy, Public Relations Officer at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Guild External Affairs Committee, made the recommendation during a Gleaner Youth Editors’ Forum, held via the Zoom online platform on Wednesday to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Jamaica’s young people.

“For a long time in Jamaica, it has been the case where STEM is the most reliable or affordable way to make money, but there are also other opportunities. For a long time, we have neglected the humanities or social sciences, and one thing I have found from research is that since the COVID-19 pandemic, other career opportunities have opened up, such as social anthropologists, who find out why there is such a wide gap between the ‘haves and the have-nots,” said Onfroy.

“There is opportunity for diversification of career opportunities. Let us use this time to look at educational reform and the emphasis we place on STEM versus the emphasis we place on humanities or areas of history, anthropology, or general social research.”


Meanwhile, addressing the issue of students dropping out of school to seek jobs due to COVID-19 affecting their studies, UWI lecturer and economist Johnique Francis said that students should examine their available options to get employed and finish their education.

“We are in a pandemic and finances are hard, but there are many means and ways that you can legally earn an income or pay your tuition. I am sure you have heard the millions of stories of persons who went through university with nothing, so the pandemic is just your ‘nothing’ now, and it is just to research the different scholarships and find the different ways in which you can use whatever talent you have,” said Francis.

“I do not think students should decide to drop out of school without doing proper research and then have no resort (choice) left. It is a self-inflicted wound, and even more so because while some employers will take you without having experience, they are more likely to take the person who has the higher-level degree or studies without the experience, than somebody who has a lower degree without experience.”

Last October, it was reported that some 300 UWI students applied for leave of absence due to COVID-19-related challenges, including financial constraints, lack of Internet connectivity for online classes, and psychosocial issues such as anxiety and depression.