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Today is International Youth Day, with this year’s focus on mental health. The causes for mental health issues are varied and complex. One factor that can play an important role in someone’s well-being is whether or not that person is employed. This is particularly relevant for today’s young people, with global youth unemployment figures still skyrocketing despite a general tendency towards economic recovery in most countries.
Unemployment does not only impact on someone’s ability to earn a living, it is a reflection of the opportunities (or lack of) that are available. The younger generation is currently faced with a situation where there is not only a lack of jobs, many jobs are simply inaccessible, especially those who live in developing countries and who may not have access to adequate education and training. This situation dramatically changes a young person’s ability to plan their future and their general outlook on life.
Young people are feeling stuck, and many of them believe that unless they are given an opportunity through external help, they are unlikely to find the means to escape the poverty trap.
This is where business needs to step in. Investing in young people by creating jobs and by building gateways into the labour market is a significant opportunity for business to invest in itself.
The Youth Career Initiative (YCI), a work and life skills programme for disadvantaged young people, does just that. YCI works in partnership with the international hotel industry to offer a training programme that combines practical and classroom-based teaching. YCI prepares young people for the labour market by equipping them with relevant skills, but beyond this, the experience is life-changing for the young participants because it changes their perspective and their aspirations. YCI is a successful model because it is holistic.
YCI works with young people who are unable to find legitimate employment and who have no means to continue their education.
Santosh Bhuvad, now responsible for the Asia-Pacific region within the YCI team, and formerly the main coordinator for the programme at the Kherwadi Social Welfare Association in Mumbai, says: 'Before they begin the programme, participants typically are quiet, less confident and don’t really come forward.' Keila Souza, a YCI graduate herself (read her story here), and now coordinating the initiative at the Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo, adds: 'The young people start the programme without any goals for themselves, even without dreams, and many problems in managing interpersonal relationships.'
Gabriela Gallardo Dramis, who works for YCI’s local coordinating partner in Mexico City, Fundacion Infantia, says: 'When they first come to us, those young people need a space where they are given opportunities to find work and to escape a situation that weighs them down. They are hoping for new doors to open and for a type of support that helps them change the course of their lives.'
However, after these young people finish the programme, their entire attitude and behaviour will have changed. Gabriela continues: 'The changes are surprising […] they fully acknowledge themselves as active participants in the labour market and they feel empowered to take on the responsibility to create a change. They recognise their achievements and their strengths and they acquire the ability to focus on their goals and to plan their future.'
Samron Adane, formerly Training Manager at the Radisson Blu in Addis Ababa and now in charge of the Middle-East and Africa region for YCI, says: 'They will change during the course of the training in a way that one can easily identify. You see their confidence grow, they are more assertive in their communication and in their overall body language. They start to mingle with the employees who make them feel like they are part of a team.'
What do the hotels gain by investing in young people?
Young people bring a lot of new energy to the workplace and their enthusiasm is contagious. Keila says: 'They bring so much joy to the business and they are very willing to meet guests. They share their experiences and impressions with the employees, who find their presence really motivating. The efforts and willpower of these students inspires colleagues to motivate staff and to contribute to the growth of others.' Samron adds:
They are very energetic and enthusiastic to learn new things. This motivates existing employees to get to know them and to help them. They also bring a chance for someone to teach them, and to engage in a mentor-mentee relationship.
Moreover, young people have huge potential for professional and personal development. Many YCI graduates who are offered a job at one of the participating hotels after graduating, stay for an extended period of time and they usually progress within their career. Keila won the Employee of the Year award at the Grand Hyatt in 2012. So did Feda’a Tarsha at the Four Seasons in Amman, also a former graduate.
Working with young people therefore gives hotels participating in YCI a unique opportunity to tap into a huge amount of talent combined with passion and enthusiasm. They gain access to a more diverse pool of talent by accessing parts of the local community they would rarely come in contact with otherwise. They give those young people the opportunity to realise their potential. Hospitality is uniquely placed for this type of programme due to the sheer range of activities on offer at a hotel and the incredible prospect for career progression within this industry. Keila alone was promoted four times since her graduation.
To find out more about YCI go to www.youthcareerinitiative.org or follow their news @YCI_global. If you've been part of YCI in any capacity we'd love to hear from you via our Facebook page or Twitter. We will be running a Twitter Q&A on this topic on 27th August 13:30 GMT #GHdebates.