Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Offering alternative paths for youths-at-risk

Over 100 friends, family members and trainers gathered to celebrate the achievements of 73 graduates who received their certificates for completing YMCA Project Bridge’s Vocational and Soft Skills Programme (VaSSP) on 25 November 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.

Joachim Loo, a graduate of the course, gave testimony of his personal journey and what he has accomplished through the programme. In his speech, Joachim said that the core training at VaSSP has “enabled him to discover more about his personality, as well as strengths and weaknesses.” “The conflict resolution skills also taught me how to manage disagreements with my peers,” he said.

“To progress in life, providing the youths with the right tools is only part of the picture. Training, advice and vocational skills all help them progress, but to truly help them transform, we need to build a sense of trust and establish a solid relationship with them. Through YMCA Project Bridge, we give the youths an opportunity to discover themselves in a more positive and empowering way – the programme is about progression, developing skills and realising one’s potential. At the end of the day, we hope to put our youths on a path towards healthy, independent lives where they can stand on their two feet and become a valued and valuable member of society and in turn impact lives,” 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.

Chef Anup Kumar, Allspice Institute, says, “The VaSSP is exactly what these youths need: a positive and productive setting where they can build their self-confidence and acquire job skills for a successful future. It is especially heartening to see that most of the youths were able to complete their assigned tasks with positive outcomes within such a short period. We’ve seen the changes in their work, attitude and communication, and this will help shape them as they step into the working world. They were a joy to work with and I look forward to teaching and mentoring the next batch of youths.”
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 Allspice Institute, Bettr Barista Coffee Academy, Equal Ark (formerly known as Equine Academy), Kimage and The School of Make-Up. Others have made financial contributions to the programme, which include J.P Morgan Chase-Foundation, Lee Foundation, The Community Foundation of Singapore and Tote Board.

To date, over 370 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.

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