Skills Training

A young man applying his knowledge acquired from the Skills Training ProgramMore than a decade after the inception of the Youth Development Division in 1972, the Youth Skills Training Programme was "born." The programme which was then funded by USAID (United States Agency for International Development), OAS (Organisation of American States), and supported by the Government of Dominica targeted out of school unemployed youth. The non-formal Training Programme was headed by the Chief Youth Development Officer. Miss Elizabeth Alfred assumed the position of National Director.

The programme was a timely one having been introduced at the post Hurricane David recovery period. Many young people were out of school and unemployed. The devastated country was being rehabilitated and there was an urgent need for skilled workers. In 1988 financial support from USAID and OAS was phased out, and the programme was taken over in full by the Government of Dominica. This development was part of the agreement signed between the governments of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the funding agencies. However, much needed technical support continued to be provided occasionally by the OAS.

Through its competent and committed staff, the programme reached the length and breadth of the island, identifying and prioritising the needs of the youth, the availability of local resources and identifying employment opportunities.

Two young men putting their newly acquired skills to useThe first set of modules undertaken included, Small Engine Repairs, Livestock, Auto Mechanics, Bricklaying and plumbing. The programme did not ignore the socio-economic status of its trainees and so established the payment of stipends. Through its holistic approach to the individual's development, the programme has been advocating total formation of the trainees through sessions in Social Skills and related areas such as Family Life Education, Drug Education, Business Awareness and Remedial Reading and Writing. A very strong component of the programme has been the job attachment for the trainees at the end of the training period. The staff of the Youth Skills Training Programme has always kept close contact with employers to follow up on the trainees and for employment opportunities.

The programme conducts a Tracer Study on a two year basis to follow up on past trainees. To date over 4000 Dominicans have been trained in 90 different skills (many of which have been repeated). These modules range from Agriculture, Construction, Hospitality Arts, Auto Motive Trades, Distributive Trades, Computer Skills, Electricity and Electronics, Hair styling, Barbering, Furniture Making, Leather Work, Industrial Sewing, Ceramics, Candle Production, Silk Screen Printing and Soap Production.

The Tracer Study has also revealed that about 75% of the people who completed the Youth Skills Training Programmes are employed.

By the early nineties further momentum was added to the programme, when Mr. Jules Pascal (then Instructor/Trainer), participated in a programme in the Bahamas which focused on the entrepreneurial approach to employment. Through his efforts a project was written for the establishment of five enterprise centres, through which skills would be taught and incubator units established to enable young entrepreneurs to secure a base.

The project met with favourable response from the European Union (EU) which provided well over one million dollars for the establishment of those facilities, referred to as Youth Enterprise Centres.