Monday, 7 December 2015

Brighter futures for youths-at-risk

Over 130 friends, family members and trainers gathered to celebrate the achievements of 60 graduates who received their certificates for completing YMCA Project Bridge’s Vocational and Soft Skills Programme (VaSSP) on 4 December at the YMCA of Singapore.

VaSSP was conceived by YMCA Project Bridge in 2009, in conjunction with a survey on growing youth employment issues. Results revealed a lack of career exploration venues, employment and support services tailored for youth early school leavers. YMCA Project Bridge’s kernel of a service idea was then gently shepherded through to fruition, to become the VaSSP. Now in its fourth year, VaSSP provides intervention and vocational training for at-risk and out-of-school youths aged between 15 and 21, equipping them with job competency skills as well as a certified vocational skill.

Jayden, a graduate of the course, gave testimony of his personal journey and what he has accomplished through the programme. In his speech, Jayden said that VaSSP has “helped him find confidence” and was “thankful for an opportunity to pursue his passion.”

Zhi Ting, another graduate, was 15 when she dropped out of school due to a lack of interest. Through a school counsellor’s recommendation, she enrolled in the VaSSP, hoping it will help chart the course for her future. “VaSSP has taught me to keep trying in order to discover my gifting and interests. I have become more independent and strong-minded in the pursuit of my dream. The programme has also taught me social skills which I find very helpful when I started working,” said Zhi Ting, who also shared her testimony at the graduation ceremony.

“As a youth organisation, YMCA of Singapore strives to groom young adults into responsible community champions who can impact and lead the community. A part of this effort includes reaching out to the out-of-school youths and youths-at-risk to transform their lives. Many of them have huge dreams and huge potential just like anyone else, but due to their unfortunate family situations, they fall out and ostracise themselves from the mainstream, often ending up with bad company and landing in trouble. Through YMCA Project Bridge, we are able to reach out to them, befriend them and equip them with life and vocational skills in the hope of integrating them back into the society,” said Mr Lo Chee Wen, General Secretary, YMCA of Singapore.

Under the VaSSP, participants were required to complete an intensive six-month programme which encompassed core training such as work ethics, personal budget planning and job interviewing. Phase two of the programme consisted of a vocational training in one of nine areas — baking, coffee bar serving, culinary art, hairdressing, hospitality in food and beverage, horse stable management, makeup, web design, manicure and pedicure. The youths will then go for on-the-job training with an employer.

Based at the YMCA Project Bridge Vocational Development Centre in Bukit Batok, the VaSSP accepts referrals from a range of sources, including schools, Government agencies as well as walk-ins.

The VaSSP has received tremendous support from various establishments who share the goal to develop and inspire youths to find their niche in life by signing on as training partners. They include Equine Academy, Garibaldi Italian Restaurant & Bar, The School of Make-Up and Toni & Guy. Others have made financial contributions to the programme. J.P. Morgan, a major donor of the VaSSP has been supporting since 2014.

To date, over 280 youths have enrolled in this programme, which has maintained a 80% success rate of positive outcomes of youths either completing on the job training, obtaining sustainable employment, returning to school or pursuing higher vocational courses.

To find out more about VaSSP, please click here.

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