Youth appeal

NYS seeks help from private sector to supplement budget

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Associate Editor -- Features thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, June 22, 2015

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TWO hundred and seventy six million dollars may sound like a lot of money to some, but for the National Youth Service (NYS) it is barely a drop in the bucket to reach the 14,000 young people it targets through about a dozen programmes each year.


The figure is 68 per cent of the NYS's budgetary allocation froam Government, the remainder of which covers salaries and administrative costs.


"It is more than we got last time around... but it is not enough," chairman of the NYS board Maureen Webber told reporters and editors at the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange yesterday.


"That's why we are leveraging support from the private sector and other donors."


Included in leveraging support, as Webber puts it, is making "polite requests" of public or private sector companies to put up some of the funds to compensate NYS participants engaged particularly through the service's summer programme.


The stipend paid by NYS now ranges from $6,000 to $8,000 per week.


"All we're asking entities to do, in terms of our summer employment programme, is to pay a third of the cost, that's one week, while we pay for two weeks. What that does is provide the opportunity for us to take on another participant," Community Services Director Omar Newell explained.


Webber and Newell were guests at the Observer newspaper's Beechwood Avenue headquarters. They were accompanied by Nickeshia Lindsay, deputy director, community services; Naketa West, acting programmes director, and communications consultant Patrique Goodall.


The NYS, which started in 1973 as a vehicle through which young people could access employability skills training, caters to underserved youth ranging from 17-24 years. In addition to a summer programme, it manages empowerment, enrichment, access to higher education (AHEP), events production, information and communications technology, graduate work experience (GWEP), and volunteer programmes.


"The summer programme is our largest programme and it takes around $100 million," Newell said.


"GWEP takes about $74 million; AHEP gets approximately $30 million; Empowerment, approximately $24 million; Enrichment $25 million or so; and volunteerism, which may overlap with some of the others, $5 million," he added.


On the subject of salaries, Webber lamented over what she said was a high turnover rate due to salaries "well below the average" for her staff complement of just over 30 across the island.


"Our salary levels are abysmal. I struggle to retain my staff. We're like an incubator... They'll stay for two years and then leave. We can't hold on to people," she said yesterday.


"We have very good talent, but I don't even give them a million bucks to take home a year," the NYS chair continued.


The organisation's staff comprises field officers, programme managers, a career counsellor, a placement services coordinator; HR, IT and finance personnel, as well as administrative and other support staff.


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