BY PETRE WILLIAMS-RAYNOR Career & Education editor email@example.com
COLLEEN Davis, 17, is among the more than 20 youths who are this summer getting a taste of what it means to run their own business while giving back to the community.
It's been made possible through the three-year-old Konnecting Minds programme of Konnexx Services Limited.
"It's really a good programme. I enjoy myself each time here," Davis told Career & Education at Konnexx offices along Red Hills Road in Kingston last week.
Among the crop of youngsters in the programme this summer are students from Holy Childhood where Colleen attends, Kingston College, Ardenne High, St George's College, Pembrook Hall High, Queens, Alpha Academy, and the American International School of Kingston (AISK).
"We have challenges to build stuff using solar power, and we have been working on a project where we are refurbishing a classroom at the Half-Way-Tree Primary School," Davis said, providing insight into some of their activities.
For the school project they work in groups, which are mini-replicas of companies — complete with an organisational structure that takes in not only a project manager, but also an assistant project manager, engineer, designer, purchasing manager, and administrator.
The companies this year have been dubbed 'Nation Innovators', 'Delta Designers' and 'Hylites' — all of them with a specific set of service offerings for which they are provided a $200,000 budget. They bring those services to Half-Way-Tree Primary's grade two, four and six classrooms.
For Davis, the experience has been great.
"We work in groups and we do have disagreements. But I am the project manager and so I ensure that there is respect and everybody has a chance to voice their opinions," she said, noting that the programme had facilitated all of that.
It is an experience, the youth said, that will serve her well as she pursues A Levels in September, in furtherance of her career goal to become a journalist.
"[Konnecting Minds] has taught me teamwork and allowed me to ask questions, meet people and learn how to deal with them," she said.
Davis is not alone in her praise of the programme, which sees each participant receiving a $5,000 stipend a week while being served refreshments during the days.
"For me, it is showing me how to be a well-rounded person and to not just put myself in one box. [The programme has also taught me] to expect anything [and to be prepared for it]," said Andre Samuels, a student of Kingston College, who said he recently started a promotions group in his Waterhouse community.
"It's amazing. I am learning a whole lot and having fun while doing it. I'm also meeting new people, though I knew some of the guys already," added the 17-year-old, who is awaiting his Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate passes.
Giovanni Rimann echoed his sentiment.
"It has been challenging yet rewarding. It has forced me to become innovative and pushed me to adapt to different situatons and apply myself," said the 18-year-old student of AISK, who is working with Konnecting Minds as a project assistant.
"It has opened my eyes to different areas of interest and it has most definitely pushed me to work with different sets of people," he noted.
Meanwhile, as part of their training for the corporate world, the youths have been given lessons in grooming and budgeting and exposure to various professions, notably choreography and banking. Later, they are to be exposed to other career options and, according to Konnexx Services managing director Dean Nevers, it's all deliberate and intended to help the youths settle on a course for their future.
"At this point, half of them [are] not really seeing what they want to do. And when you have persons coming in who have been there, done that, it helps them," he said.
At the end of the programme this month, Nevers said the top company will nominate two persons from within their group to have internships in an area of interest to them. One of those internships will be provided by Konnexx Services.
"I would love if other companies see this and do the same thing — even if they have a smaller budget. If they could do this for even two kids, can you imagine the difference?" he said.