Locals have voiced the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture (MYSC) Fresh Start Programme has become useless and unavailing, when achieving employment for its graduates.
Expressing themselves on social media and through word of mouth, some have alleged that the programme was not of assistance and while the 2019 class was one of the most successful in employment, MYSC Youth Coordinator Carla Brown-Roker insisted, the programme is achievable to those wanting success.
Speaking with this daily on Thursday, August 8, Brown-Roker said many of the participants are not always focused on doing the work, but nonetheless, she is satisfied with the majority of them who were and are able to use the training to secure employment.
“When you come across the Fresh Start Programme, it is a very tight programme because it requires you to go back to that school routine of going in at 9 O’clock and being able to attend classes daily and weekly.
“What I find is that once a student graduates or leaves school, not necessarily graduate, but many of them are not into the discipline of going back to committing to classes daily, attending and participating.
“I find that I would say more than 50 percent of them enroll in the programme for the wrong reasons. They enroll in the programme, because someone at home is telling them they need to get from being home and they need to go do something,” said Brown-Roker.
“What I have discovered is parents coming in and actually trying to fill in and sign the person up, because they are fed up with them being home and that is the first sign of things not being able to go right, because the youngsters have to want it themselves.
“As a youth, you have to reach a point where you have to look at what is my option; so, I have dropped off what I call a resume and I am not getting a response, but now I see there is a programme that maybe can assist me in strengthening some skills and it’s free. So, perhaps I should go into this or whether it be the National Training Agency (NTA) or the Fresh Start Programme,” she added.
“When I am speaking to persons like Mr. (Donald) Glass, who directs the NTA Programme, we have matching assessments of it. The same kind of not follow through … the fact that so many young person’s start, but they don’t finish it.
“The Fresh Start Programme and the NTA Programme works for those who work the programme,” Brown-Roker stated.
She said if the participant comes with the right attitude and comes in willing to do their end of it, “then these are both programmes that will see you through until you do find employment and that isn’t necessarily during the internship. The internship is an opportunity for you to be hired, but it is not a guarantee that you would be hired. You can be an excellent worker, but the company may be facing its own challenges.”
The coordinator revealed that the 2019 graduation class was successful as those students were offered employment. She added that the programme was a training for the development of students in their respective areas.
“When we hosted a graduation for the Fresh Start Programme, we had a good number of persons who were offered employment. Our largest group was Computer Technology people. When they came in, they were offered the opportunity to do classes in Computer Technology and they got two international certifications.
“We mirrored the programme that is offered by the Office of the Prime Minister, because if Grand Bahama is going to be the technology hub, then I want to ensure that they have an opportunity to also gain employment in the field,” said Brown-Roker.
“One of the things that the HR Manager said to me was the young people have to learn that when they are walking around a resort, they have to walk around with a smile and always be pleasant. Many of them wear their feelings on their sleeve. So, when you are saying to them smile, be courteous when they are doing BahamaHost, but they are not taking what they learned and applying it.
“I have a lot of concerns,” she admitted.
Brown-Roker noted that locally, it is becoming a society where people are looking at those who have done what they needed to do and they are in the small percentage. “Then you have a middle section who is in denial. They did not do what is required, but they want to seek higher education. In fact, they simply want to get off this land and into college when they know that they are not necessarily going to college for the right reasons.
“Then you have the largest amount that simply don’t care; who believe that all they need to do is get a job, start working and they are going to figure it out. But my issue is because a person completes the Grade 12 or school, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are armed and ready to be in a workplace environment.
“For many of them you’ll find that they lack the regular soft skill requirement for the workplace. Simple things like if I know I am running late, I am going to call or reach someone and say I am running late; but I will be there or I didn’t come in yesterday because…
“They bring such a don’t care attitude,” said Brown-Roker.
She noted that it took a while to offer Fresh Start again, because she was concerned with Grand Bahama’s economy and finding places. “You can train the youth, but the challenge has been finding work places that will keep them or will call them back after they would’ve done the internship.”
She continued, “Another challenge is how do you get them to understand that when you go into a workplace, you are going in to prove what you know and to be indispensable. It isn’t for the talking and it isn’t for the training.
“I had facilitators upon facilitators come in to give them a harsh look at reality, as to what happens in the workplace and how you have to sell yourself.
“You have to be this person that represents the company with such distinction that they can’t imagine running their business without you being a part of their team,” said Brown-Roker.
Quinica Jones, a 2019 participant gave her personal experience on the programme.
“I started the Fresh Start Programme the second week in January (2019) and my experience started pretty amazing, because we went in different areas. I started off with accounts, personal hygiene, how to prepare yourself on a job, how to set up tables because the area I took up was Food and Beverage. I learned different ways to fold a napkin, I know how to fix a roll in a napkin, I could do a napkin fanfold … everything was pretty good.
“At the end of the day you would get a test, they would test you to see where your focus is and what all you remembered in the programme,” she shared.
“Also, I did my internship at Dolly Madison. I think Mrs. Brown-Roker placed me at Dolly Madison, because I am a people’s person and I have a great personality. The General Manager, Mr. James Rolle, saw where my focus was. I did not only work in the department (Houseware) I was placed, but I helped out in Radio Shack, I helped with tools, I helped with gardening, plumbing, different departments in the company.
“Mr. Rolle saw my intentions and he sat me down one day and told me how everyone was talking about how good I worked. Although I was not offered the job at that point, he told me he will keep me in mind,” she added.
“Once I graduated from Fresh Start, Mrs. Brown-Roker placed me at Dolly Madison for the government’s four weeks programme, where I was later hired permanently.”
Youngster Latrell Harrison-Gaye added, “I took the Fresh Start Programme in 2019 and it is a great programme.
“It has potential and I feel like a lot of reasons were bashing it because a lot of us just want free things, we do not want to go out there and try look for something ourselves.
“It was free education and along with that, we were given a bi-weekly stipend which was a nice help,” he disclosed.
“I think a few of us got a job from it, I haven’t really been keeping up with the other students, so I can’t say how it was for them; but me, personally, my job was not really from the programme. I had to look into it myself.
“But as far as receiving certification by BahamasHost free, getting OSHA certified free and the welding course I took up was free. Although it was not a full welding class, I’m half way there and all of it was free,” he added.
“I think a lot of times when a lot of us come in the programme, we think we’re going to sit back and relax and jobs will fall in our laps, and that was the problem with a lot of us.”
Harrison-Gaye noted that ‘no offence’ to his classmates, but some were not really serious in doing work. “I could’ve seen it a lot in their attitudes.
“I didn’t see as much behaviour of I am going to go out there and get it. It’s the same with high school, you could not get good grades unless you work for it.
“I think the programme could be better, but the main problem I would say is us. I would not blame the programme for a lot of people not getting jobs, I blame the island economy in a way.
“But I’m sure in the future and the next programmes, the directors should emphasize even more the students must be the ones to push towards whatever they want,” said Harrison-Gaye.