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For some young people around the world, employment can seem like an unattainable dream.
You could be the smartest kid on the block, but often circumstances can get in the way. If you're living in poverty, relied on to take care of siblings or elderly family members, struggling with a disability or bringing up a young child, who is going to take a chance and give you a job? There might be a luxury hotel on your doorstep, but if you're living in a favela (or a barrio or a kibera), how could you imagine ever stepping foot through its shiny doors in search of work?
YCI is a twenty-four week education programme that provides disadvantaged young people around the world with life and work skills. The purpose is to empower young participants to make informed career choices and realise the options available to them; enabling them to improve their employability and enhance their long-term social and economic opportunities.
YCI is made possible thanks to a unique partnership with the international hotel industry, whereby participating properties provide the human, operational and training resources to deliver the programme.
Candidates are typically aged between 18-21 years-old, have recently finished high school, are able to make a full-time commitment to the programme, and are considered to be at-risk of exploitation.
Participants show a willingness to learn and a desire for self-development but have no other means to improve their lives. This means that they have limited or no opportunities to find decent, legitimate employment or continue in further education.
YCI has operations in twelve countries around the world from Australia to Poland and including programmes in Jordan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, Egypt and Brazil. Each country programme is tailored to suit the local needs of its young people – YCI is used as a tool to tackle or prevent issues such as youth unemployment, social exclusion, poverty, and exploitation.
Because of their international presence and proximity to local communities, hotels are uniquely placed to offer opportunities to young people. Additionally, because of their ability to offer ground level entry positions and a clear career ladder for employees, hotels represent an ideal starting point for those lacking skills and experience.
For the hotels, as well as providing the ability to ‘give back’ to the community in which they’re located, offering the programme presents the opportunity to train and skill candidates within their business, and to recruit and retain loyal staff, reducing costs.
To illustrate the power of the YCI programme, here’s Hadit’s story.
Hadit Sibaja was two years old when her parents divorced. Living in the poor, conflict-ridden neighbourhood of San José, the capital city of Costa Rica, Hadit’s mother was providing for her four children by working at the National Women’s Institute (Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres / INAMU); a government-led women’s rights organisation.
At 12 years-old, Hadit lost the sight in her left eye, and her right eye was heavily impaired. When she finished high school, she fell pregnant.
Hadit discovered the YCI through the National Women’s Institute. Being a single mother with no work experience she seized the opportunity. In YCI she saw a development opportunity allowing her to gain new knowledge as well as to acquire key transferable skills.
Hadit says that YCI taught her to believe that one can tackle any challenge they are prepared to take on. The practical training component within YCI rotates students through a minimum of 15 different operational hotel areas. Every week she mentally prepared herself to learn something new and different. "The most valuable element in the programme is the work experience that you gain in different areas. In addition to this experience you develop skills that will be useful in future jobs, such as performing well at job interviews, writing your CV and a professional attitude," she says.
Hadit regarded these new learning opportunities as personal challenges, and she was determined to perform to the best of her ability. "YCI taught me to be strong and to deal well with daily challenges," she says. She believes YCI enabled her to create attitudes, skills and a sense of responsibility. "I think YCI opened a door. I face challenges but I’ve learned how to deal with them. Training and performance remain my priorities to succeed."
During the programme, Hadit developed a keen interest in the administrative side of human resources. Upon graduation, she joined a cooperative run by people with permanent physical and sensory disabilities.
The organisation was in the process of setting up and Hadit actively participated in the process. The business signed a contract with a telecoms company and for the last four years they have been running customer services for mobiles and landlines while employing 46 people with disabilities.
Hadit is the Executive Assistant and Secretary of the Board of Directors. She is financially autonomous and has begun an independent life with her young daughter while she attends courses offered by the National Institute of Cooperative Development (Instituto Nacional de Fomento Cooperativo / INFOCOOP); a public institution for the promotion and development of cooperatives in Costa Rica. She focuses on her studies not only for her personal development but also to strengthen the support she can offer her company; aiming to employ people with disabilities to be included in the labour market.
The YCI programme enabled Hadit to assertively define her career path. 'Along the programme I was actively reflecting on the way I look at things and identifying my goals,” she says. “In fact I am working on those same goals now. I am still studying to achieve them successfully. Moreover, when I was at the hotel I realised that if you have character and determination you can grow. The sky is the limit.”
Have you seen young people flourish in the hospitality industry? Do you have a story to share about your own journey? Do you feel hotels have a responsibility to their local communities? We want to hear your views. Air them here or join us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+.