Passport2Success a new approach to engage youth

A  new programme for young people is gaining
momentum in Cayman. And while it may not be the long-sought after cure-all for
Cayman’s myriad employment ills, it certainly looks like it may already be
having a positive impact on those who are taking part.

Passport2Success
is geared at recent high school graduates and young Caymanian school-leavers
looking for a job that’s the right fit. The hope is that participants who
complete the process will be better equipped to move on to further education,
choose a career and eventually succeed in a job that they enjoy. The programme
provides training in work areas that interest the participants while they gain
work experience and also valuable exposure to employers. Participants can
choose from a variety of activities and training modules.

“You
don’t need high school qualifications or work experience to join the
Passport2Success programme,” says programme coordinator Shannon Seymour of the
Wellness Centre.

“You
just need to want to improve your skills, secure a job you want and be willing
to work.”

The
government funded programme, set to run four times a year has garnered a lot of
interest.

“We
held an orientation evening in April when the programme was initially launched
and over 35 young people attended,” says Seymour.

In the end,
organizers received over 40 applications for the first session, and are getting
a steady flow through the programme’s web site, www.passport2success.ky.

Career exposure

 Seymour
says one of the programme objectives was to provide an opportunity for career
exposure.

“With
the participants, we visited different types of industries, ranging from
retail, banking, tourism, construction, and transportation,” she says.

“The
reason for this was to broaden participants awareness of the variety of jobs
available and the diversity of career paths. Many young people in Cayman still
believe the only good job is in a bank, and often won’t even consider other
types of work.”

Seymour
says the needs of participants varied significantly, but some themes did
emerge.

“They
all required help in the area of oral and written communication, and they all
needed to challenge misconceptions that they were unemployed because of some
external factor,” she says.

“We
really challenged participants to take responsibility for themselves and
acknowledge that they are solely responsible for their own unemployment as long
as there are jobs they refuse to take. Most of them knew very little about the
‘world of work’, including the Labour Law, employment contracts, probationary
periods and so on.”

She
says that for most this was the first opportunity to actually learn how to
search for a job, so a lot of focus was placed on resume writing, job search
skills and interviewing. 

A
dose of reality

For some young people they realised that they had
a false impression of their abilities and skills. “For instance, many of them
mistook Facebook skills for computer skills,” says Seymour.

“They
thought that because they knew how to watch videos on YouTube they could call
themselves computer literate. This was an important lesson for some.”

She
also says the instructors had to help participants understand that being able
to ‘talk amongst friends’ was not the same as having workplace communication
skills. 

“Letting
go of high school attitudes and expectations and embracing a sense of adult
responsibility for their own path, was something we addressed often,” she adds.

The company’s take

 “All of the participating companies
have been wonderful,” says Seymour.

“The
feedback we have received about our participant work placements has been very
positive for the most part.”

LIME
is one of the major sponsors of the programme and Marketing Manager Julie
Hutton sees Passport2Success as a very positive initiative.

“We
feel it is something that is needed in our community – a bridge between
education and the work place,”

“As
a large employer in the Cayman Islands and with the majority of our employees
being Caymanian, we have a vested interest in the education and development of
young Caymanians.  This programme really
is about getting participants ready for the real world which obviously is a big
change from full time education.”

Another
company taking part is KPMG.

“We
felt this was a highly beneficial initiative to complement our existing youth
program,” says Cindy Reid, KPMG’s local recruitment executive.

“Our
leadership firmly believes in the importance in assisting our young people to
develop and grow professionally.”

KPMG’s
role was definitely hands-on, as Reid volunteered her services as a guest
speaker, visiting the participants at ICCI. 

“I
spoke to them about the skills needed and desired for an entry level role,” she
says, adding that she also used the opportunity to tell the participants about
KPMG and the various job opportunities the company has.

Offering
to look at cover letters, CV’s and making suggestions, she played an active
role in the interviewing process of the participants that were interested in a
role at KPMG, and helped out with their training once they arrived. 

“I
feel the most important role I played was as a mentor to encourage, support and
guide individuals,” says Reid.

Reid
thinks the training given to her company’s participant allowed her to build
confidence in herself and her abilities. 

“More
specifically, I feel our participant gained sound knowledge and understanding
of the way in which to conduct herself within a professional environment,” she
says.

She
thinks having the overall experience of working with several departments provided
the participant with valuable insight into the different future career paths
she might be able to take.

Positive outcome

Two of the programme participants joined LIME for
the practical work experience period of the programme.

“Odetti
Escalona and Shericka Seymour are very happy to have the opportunity to work at
LIME and gain strong work experience,” says Hutton.

“LIME
has retained both the young ladies past the two week work experience period of
the programme and they will work in the Marketing Department for the summer.”

Reid
too has a positive feeling about the outcome.

“KPMG
looks forward to participating in the Passport2Success program again and felt
it provided us with an opportunity to make a positive impact on a young
person’s career,” says Reid.

“I
would encourage other companies to take part in this program, as it helps our
young people to grow and develop their professional skills.”

If
anything, Reid says she would encourage the program to be expanded for a longer
duration period.

“This
will give the participants an opportunity to gain more experience and knowledge
of the company,” she says.

Seymour
is optimistic about the programme’s future.

“We
started with 24 participants; one secured full-time employment during the
second week of the programme, two opted to leave the programme, so in the end,
21 participants were set to complete the programme,” says Seymour.

“I would encourage
any young person who want to develop themselves to apply. It’s certainly not an
easy programme, and participants are challenged, but I believe that young
people deserve to aspire to the highest standards and work to be the best they
can be. This programme can help, if they want it.”  

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