Unemployment among the youth is considered a widespread issue in Solomon Islands and in most nations in the Pacific. Young people are often underemployed and undereducated. Such an issue is likely to result to financial insecurity and a high possibility of youth engaging in crimes and violence.
Youth at Work is an established program that is led by the South Pacific Community Organization in Solomon Islands (SPC-SI). It has been running youth employment and youth advocacy programs since 2012. Its goal is to improve the opportunities available to unemployed youth by assisting them in finding jobs or in starting their own businesses. The program’s main office is situated in the nation’s capital, Honiara.
Primarily, Youth at Work intended to open its doors to a small number of applicants. Eventually, they opted to advertise widely to see how far they can get participants to join the program. Instead of an expected 20 applicants, they received more than 200 applications in their first phase. They also found that most applicants were school dropouts from ages 17 to 30.
How They Work
Photo Credit: Youth at Work
According to Youth at Work’s current program coordinator Raywin Taroaniara, the program serves internship trainings and mentoring sessions that create ways for young people to visualize what they can make of their talents and skills. The program’s trainings initially ran for a few weeks but it 2017, it officially opted to run for six months to ensure the quality of trainings.
Applicants start off with an information session and are made to sign up for either internship or entrepreneurship streams. They then undergo an 80-hour community service. After the service, participants undergo job-ready trainings or basic business trainings.
Those who have chosen the internship stream move on to job placements which may be with the private sector, NGOs, donors, or the public sector. Certificates are awarded to those who have finished the program.
Those who have chosen the entrepreneurship stream go into a two-week period of business training and the business plan development. Participants are then given funds amounting to $2000 Solomon Island dollars (approx. $260 USD) to start a business.
Another notable initiative by the program is having participants set up bank accounts for their savings. They are also encouraged to join in Solomon Island’s National Provident Funds’ savings scheme called youSave. This is particularly made for self-employed individuals so they are able to save their money for retirement.
Youth at Work’s Facebook page states that the program also runs a monthly Youth Market which is a popular event that provides exposure for young entrepreneurs and entertainers. The event advocates for youth livelihoods.
Taroaniara shared how the program helped them realize how there are numerous youths that are only waiting for an opportunity to improve their lives.
“We believe by doing this for the young people, they can take ownership of what they have and expand and utilize it to give back to their families and communities,” she explained.
Photo Credit: Youth at Work
“The biggest impact Youth at Work has is that they give hope to young people who did not know how to get a job,” Sandra Constantine, the program’s coordinator from to 2012 to 2015 stressed.
23-year old Brain Luvena, who has now become a junior reporter for the mainstream media Solomon Star Ltd., expressed how a great help the program was to him.
“Experience mattered in securing a job, so it made it easier for me to apply because I already had the experience,” he said.
At present, Youth at Work program has successfully completed 14 phases with a total of 250 plus applicants for each phase from 2012 to 2017 in Honiara. The program has also expanded to two more provinces that each had 50 applicants for every phase since 2016.
“I see that there is a need to sustain the program because it is very important when it comes to addressing youth issues. It also paves way for young entrepreneurs to utilize their talents through business. It provides privilege for young people to be independent,” Peter Zoloveke, the program’s communication officer, shared.
Youth at Work has given the youth of Solomon Islands hope and an opportunity to better their lives. They have created a hub for young people to reach their full potential and to achieve economic empowerment. This success is a motivation for the program to power through in reaching their goal of someday putting an end to youth unemployment in the country.
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