Apprenticeship Program Graduates get 2nd Chance at Life
There have been no reported murders in the country and the activities that headline the news are positive reminders that there are those individuals who are trying to develop their lives without the grip of a gun or the dark confines of a prison cell. In an effort to keep at-risk youths occupied and employable, the Youth Apprenticeship Program was implemented to give them a second chance at education and gainful employment. In June 2011, it graduated its first cohort of twenty graduates. Of those twenty graduates, sixteen are still employed to date, and twelve are enrolled in high school. The program took in its second cohort last year and seventy four have completed the program. News Five covered the second graduation ceremony today.
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
The Youth Apprentice Program held its second graduation exercise. Of the sixty young people that started out in September of 2011, forty five completed the program and received certificates today. Twenty eight of them are currently employed and thirty two are continuing secondary school. Three of the apprentices are expected to attend a tertiary institution. These apprentices have been trained in number of areas:
Dianne Finnegan, Coordinator, Youth Apprenticeship
“Trade skill areas that are presently being undertaken by the program are: electrical, welding, hospitality management, cooking, a/c refrigeration, cable and wiring, secretarial, hotel grounds maintenance and waitressing. On Fridays, the apprentices attend classes which consisted of math, English and Reading and the life skills component which is crucial.”
The program also intends to curb the number of young people involved in criminal activities. It reports a ninety-eight percent success rate, of seventy-four apprentices; only two have been in conflict with the law.
Michael Young, who graduated from the first intake of the apprenticeship program in June of 2011, made his public statement against violence and crime. He was shot on April tenth:
Michael Young, Former Apprentice
“I stand here before you as an injured man; one who can tell the tale of the present senseless gang warfare that has been placing our beautiful jewel in jeopardy. I was shot one month ago, three inches from my heart for no apparent reason; I say to you my fellow man, that although I am victim I have decided not to be a coward and to live behind my burglar bars and not to be afraid to of what is determined by those who have chosen a negative path.”
Keynote Speaker, Vinai Thummalapally, U.S Ambassador to Belize urged the graduates to offer service to their country, Belize:
Vinai Thummalapally, U.S Ambassador to Belize
“It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that many of the apprentices here today in this room would be able to teach me a thing or two; so I will not presume to lecture you about the importance of hard work. If you are here today, you already know all about that. Instead as you move forward with your lives, careers and families; I would like to encourage you to think about helping others along the way; about service to community and country.”
Patrick Faber, Minister of Education and Youth says that collaborative efforts are necessary for more youth successes stories:
Patrick Faber, Minister of Education & Youth
“It is what we in the Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports have always talked about if we are to move things forward in this country. We need the support of all stakeholders. We say that all the time in education, ‘ it is everybody’s business’ It is the man on the street, the business people who say they have nothing to gain or lose when these young people are on the streets with nothing to gainfully occupy them; it is the church’s responsibility; it is the union responsibility.”
Reporting for News Five, I am Andrea Polanco.