Helping Solomon Islands Youths Take Their First Steps to Employment
• Employment opportunities are becoming harder to find for youths in Solomon Islands.
• The Rapid Employment Project provides short term employment for youths in Honiara and its surrounding areas.
• The project also provides pre-employment training to help youth develop skills and knowledge for future employment.
Solomon Island - While in many countries after study most youths would find a job, this is not guaranteed for Solomon Islanders. Take the case of Billy, who has a degree in management and public administration. His father died a few years ago. Being the eldest in a family of six, Billy assumed the responsibility of finding employment to take care of his mother and siblings. He already had three unsuccessful job interviews.
Almost on a daily basis the media portrays the struggle of people like Billy and the social expectations that high school and university graduates have about jobs. Finding employment has become harder, as more and more people are getting higher education for a very small job market.
Honiara, the capital of Solomon Islands is experiencing high urban growth which is contributing to unemployment in the city. With few towns in the country offering employment opportunities, Honiara attracts those seeking employment. Unfortunately after arriving, many realize it is not available to all.
Rapid Employment Project, new opportunities for youths
Together with the Honiara City Council and the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, the Word Bank is implementing the Rapid Employment Project in the capital city and surrounding areas. The project provides short term employment opportunities to the most vulnerable groups like women and youths. The US$7.2 million project is financed through grants from the World Bank’s International Development Association, State and Peace-building Fund and the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility that is co-funded by AusAID and the New Zealand Government.
Initially launched in April 2010, by June 2011 more than 5,300 people have been employed through the project. Wages transferred to the project’s beneficiaries until now amount to over $ 326,941. Employments include rubbish collection and clearing drainage systems. It will soon be expanded to small scale infrastructure and road maintenance.
In the Whiteriver suburb of west Honiara, one of the most vulnerable suburbs, employment opportunities under the project not only give financial benefits to the community, but also help restore the lives of youths from drug and alcohol abuse. Most have dropped out of school since the primary level, and their first paid job was with the Rapid Employment Project.
“We don’t have jobs, we don’t have money, and we spend most of our time lazing around. When a friend or someone gives us money, we buy a few cans of beer or marijuana to help us pass the time quickly,” says Jerry the group’s leader. “The boys are now trying to get their lives together and make good use of the money they earn working for the project.”
Pre-employment training helps youths prepare for future jobs
A pre-employment training component of the project is also taking Honiara by storm. It trains 60 people, in two classes of 30 each week, but sometimes twice the number of people turn up. The training helps to build skills on personal growth, financial literacy, regulations governing employment and workplace safety, awareness and sensitivity to health and gender issues, and respect for diversity.
People hear about the training by word of mouth, usually from those already attending. Some of the youths who benefited from the training were high school drop-outs, seeking life skills on how to find work, prepare a CV, and learn about work place ethics.
“This training has given me an idea of how to do things to support myself and to depend less on my parents,” says Alison.
“I used to work as a security officer at a motel in Honiara which I was never proud of, and it affected my time keeping and respect for the work place. The training taught me a whole new positive outlook to employment,” says Peter.
Beneficiaries of the training are expected to get future employment with the rapid employment project, where they will apply newly acquired skills and knowledge – which will be the first step for the careers of many youths.
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