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Nov 6, 2019

Youth Apprenticeship Programme Turns 10!

Ten years ago, the Belize National Youth Apprenticeship programme was started in Belize City with the aim to reduce crime, through its focus on the development, education and employment of at-risk youth.  Under the administration of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, hundreds of high school drop-outs and single mothers between the ages of sixteen and twenty-nine have benefited.  In 2010, twenty apprentices were in the first class and in recent years there are as many as one hundred apprentices per intake. The programme turned ten years old today. Andrea Polanco tells us more.


Gerniel Gill, Former Apprentice

“I get into altercation that I ended up in court proceedings after that.”


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Gerniel Gill was a troubled youth. He was on his way to become just another young Belizean man in jail. But someone believed that the Apprenticeship Programme would help Gill to get his life on track. That’s almost seven years ago and Gill hasn’t looked back. He has completed high school and is enrolled in college pursuing paralegal studies.


Gerniel Gill

“First I was just in there doing nothing but I had to visit the programme every Friday and after that first intake, I went in to the other intake. From there is where I tried to excel, changed my life, try to do better because I could have gone to jail. I went back to school and was working at the time.  I am still going to school and working at this present moment.”


This year marks ten years since the Apprenticeship Programme was started. To commemorate this milestone, the programme brought together the employers who provide jobs for the apprentices to do a review of some sort to improve the programme.


Dianne Finnegan

Dianne Finnegan, Coordinator, Youth Apprenticeship Program

“We wanted to get some feedback from them; what are some of the challenges they are facing when these young people enter into their workspace; what are some ways they see we can tweak the programme to make it better and what areas do they feel it is necessary for us to add more training for them to become more competent to carry out the responsibilities of the job.”


Finnegan says that employers want to know more about the apprentices before they are hired in order to help them get more out of the programme. They also need to clearly define work hours.


Dianne Finnegan

“It is just basically to help the employer to know at what level this person is coming in and how to do the supervising; whether they need full supervision or they can be supervised for two weeks and then be left to carry out the task assigned to them.   It is just an eight to five Monday through to Friday job or is it that they can be placed on a schedule, especially in the hotel industry. We know that they have shifts. How does that work. Are these apprentices allowed to work on the weekends?”


Gill was an apprentice between 2012 and 2013. He shares how getting that six month job has shaped him into the father and student he is today.


Gerniel Gill

Gerniel Gill

“From there on, I just start to keep on the right track; the right pace. I am no longer getting into altercation with anybody again; from work to school and family.”


Andrea Polanco

“How does it feel to see that your life has taken a complete one-eighty?”


Gerniel Gill

“It feels really good for me because if you are not trying to achieve something out here, you ain’t gonna be nobody.”


One of the ways that the employers want to make even more of an impact is to work with these young persons, like Gill, for a longer period. So, the apprenticeship programme may explore extending the duration.


Dianne Finnegan

“Some of the employers feel that the six months is too short. So, how do we extend that to a year? Again this is information that we have to take to Ministry of Education and have them assess that and then we make those necessary changes.”


Coordinator Finnegan says that while the programme continues to evolve, it has been praised for its disciplinary model.  She says that its impact cannot be overlooked. Many of the apprentices, troubled youths at one point, have gone one to higher studies; others have found permanent jobs.


Dianne Finnegan

“Young people who have dropped out of school today have a high school diploma; today have an associate’s degree; today are at the point of graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree. So, it has created this kind of greed and hunger in them that they don’t see themselves stopping where they just where they came in.”


Gill agrees that this programme gave him a chance to do more with his life. He says he has no idea what his life would be like today if he didn’t enroll as an apprentice.


Gerniel Gill

“There may be a possibility that I may be in jail or might have ended up in the wrong crowd or in the wrong hands with someone else.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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