THERE is already an outpouring of support for the Miss Jamaica Festival Queen 2022 outreach project, which is geared towards reducing unemployment among the nation's youth.
The project, Youth Opportunities Accessibility Programme (YOAP), which was launched last Saturday under the theme "Equipping our Youth of Today for Tomorrow", is expected to equip approximately 300 youths between ages 17 and 25 with professional skills such as résumé writing techniques, interview etiquette, workplace etiquette, managing relationships and personal branding.
So far, the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries have already pledged support in providing internship opportunities for the youth following participation in the initiative.
Miss Jamaica Festival Queen 2022 Velonique Bowen said it was always "in her cards" to focus on a youth-based programme even before entering the pageant.
"It is one that I have had a passion for and it is one of the reasons I entered the pageant in the first place, to be able to get the platform and the support to execute this project on a large scale that could really benefit a wide range of young people and play my part, even if it's a drop in the bucket in reducing the unemployment rate among youth," she said.
Additionally, Bowen, who is also an entrepreneur, said throughout periods of recruiting other youngsters, she has realised that some of them are unprepared for the professional space.
"It is very evident in the way that they dress for their interview, in how they manage themselves in the interview, and the type of questions they ask, and the list goes on. I have noticed that we have somewhat neglected this aspect of things where we are not training our young people enough for the professional space. A lot of the emphasis is placed on academics, on preparing us to go and thrive in the working world, but what about the skills that are needed to land us in the position in the first place and the skills that are needed for us to stay in the position," she said.
The YOAP empowerment sessions will be held over a three-week period in St James, St Thomas and Kingston and St Andrew, with the first having already occurred on May 13, and the others set for May 20 and May 27.
Bowen said, following the sessions, "youth will be getting a headshot, they will be leaving with a professionally done résumé, and they will be leaving with a kit with all that was said and taught in the sessions. But in addition to that, the follow-up sessions, I think, will be even better than that. We will be offering internships or opportunities to land jobs from these sessions".
As she extends her gratitude to Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Pearnel Charles Jr and JCDC, she encourages other entities to come on-board.
"I have a lot of other partners who are coming on-board now offering internships and offering jobs, and I extend that invitation to businesses and entrepreneurs all across Jamaica. If you are interested in being a part of something impactful, a part of really assisting, helping our youth to grow, I urge you to reach out to me, so that when these attendees come to my sessions, they will leave with jobs, with an opportunity, with an internship," said Bowen, adding that Lasco Financial Services, Digicel, Engage Media Interactive, Hope Gardens and Chef Ricardo Catering also provided support.
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