Lahore, 29th April 2014 – A graduation ceremony hosted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with Punjab Vocational training Council, the Department of Youth Affairs, Sports, Archaeology and Tourism (YASAT) was held in Lahore on Tuesday, to award certificates to the first batch of students completing their employment training course as part of the Building Young Futures (BYF), a project supported by Barclays bank.
Barclays and UNICEF are engaged in a global partnership to help young people fulfil their potential by giving them confidence, skills and empowering them to start their own businesses or get work, in order to achieve stronger economic futures for themselves and their communities.
Together, UNICEF and Barclays train young people who then go out into their communities and share the training with other youth, organize in groups to apply for micro finance and do business together.
The first graduates of the yearlong course – who trained in seventeen vocational training institutes, situated in eight districts across Punjab – have now started a two month job placement with businesses linked to their selected vocational stream, in order to further develop their personal and professional skill-set.
The Building Young Futures project has been developed and implemented in partnership with the Punjab Vocational Training Council (PVTC) and the Department of Youth Affairs, Sports, Archaeology and Tourism (YASAT). It focuses on improving income generation opportunities for the most socially excluded and vulnerable adolescents in selected districts of Punjab, by enabling them to have access to life skills and demand-driven skills, financial literacy and enterprise skills, through participation in a recognized and certified training course.
Speaking on the occasion Secretary Youth Affairs, Sports, Archaeology and Tourism, Government of Punjab, Mohammad Khan Khichi said, "In line with the Adolescent Strategy launched by the YASAT Department, the Department is committed to uplift the lives of marginalized and excluded adolescents and youth of Punjab. Through this partnership, we look forward to working with PVTC & UNICEF to provide vocational skills to marginalized so that they initiate their small businesses and get employment to support their families."
UNICEF and Barclays will also be conducting a series of longitudinal case studies to assess the development trends and results achieved from the implementation of this project in some of the most disadvantaged districts of Punjab, with the lowest socio-economic development indicators. The districts include Lodhran, Mianwali, Khushab, Rahimyar Khan, Sargodha, Rajanpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Muzaffargarh, Layyah, Chakwal, Lahore, Faisalabad, Hafizabad, Nankana Sahib, Sahiwal and Bahawalpur.
Building Young Futures is committed to reaching out to 10 thousand of the most excluded and marginalized adolescents from Punjab, the most populous province of Pakistan. Five top students from each graduating class were invited to the ceremony to receive the certificates on behalf of their respective classes.
Faisal Ijaz Khan, Chairman of Punjab Vocational Training Council said, “First I must appreciate the efforts of UNICEF for the skill enhancement programs funded by Barclays Bank and are focused around training that combines the best practices from education, psychology, social work, career counselling and technology training. Skill development is an essential element in improving the employability and potential productivity of the working poor and can be important tool for reducing poverty and exclusion while enhancing competitiveness and employability. We, with our stakeholders are providing very good opportunities of getting training in different demand driven trades that they will enable our graduates /skilled manpower to sell their expertise to the world”
The event also provided some of the brightest students from the vocational training courses to highlight how the Building Young Futures programme had enriched their lives and facilitated them in beginning a career.
Sehrish, a 16 year old girl from Faisalabad has learnt stitching and dress designing at the BYFP institute. She says, “Along with our training we have also been taught to read and write. It gives me great pleasure that I can now write my own name in Urdu. After completing my training as a seamstress I will open my own training centre, after all what is the use of a skill if it is not shared?”
Shahzad Dada, CEO Barclays Bank shared, “In Pakistan young people are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. Barclays is investing in these people through our Building Young Futures partnership with UNICEF. It is a three way model, which sees us collaborating closely with governments to expand and sustain the interventions, benefiting young people, and the wider community now and for the long term. Today’s graduates are the first group of what we hope will be many more to come. I wish them all the success in their future endeavours.”
A key component of this project is to strengthen the policy environment for adolescents. As part of its efforts, UNICEF has facilitated the engagement of adolescents, civil society organisations and other government departments to collaborate with the Department of YASAT in order to develop a relevant strategy for adolescents.
Launched in July 2013, the Punjab provincial Adolescent Strategy 2013 to 2017, provides a road map for the implementation of initiatives and activities that can help meet the needs and rights of the adolescents of Punjab. It focuses on eight priority areas for adolescents over the coming five years: economic empowerment; education; protection; health; social empowerment; participation and engagement; disasters; and data and research.
“Adolescents belonging to excluded communities have limited opportunities to enrol in vocational training courses that are extensive, comprehensive and most of all certified by the government,” said Shagufta Bhatti, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF, “Through this project it is heart-warming to witness opportunities being provided to marginalized and excluded adolescents to gain vocational skills and also learn life skills, which are also part of the training course. I am hopeful that each and every successful adolescent trainee will make a huge difference not only in supporting their families but also, after a year, have increased social resilience.”