On Tuesday this week, Jeremy Gwao writing in the Solomon Times Online told the story of David Alufo'oa, a 33 years old young man from Central Kwara'ae, who had recounted to Jeremy during an interview that the Youth at Work programme had saved him and he mentioned that was unfortunate that the programme was discontinued.
For local readers, the Youth at Work program was well known so I will not go into details.
David Alufo’oa said during his interview with the journalist, “It is time the nation-builders train and equip young people; they should appreciate all youths of this nation because they are the future builders of this nation."
The same article went on to say, and I quote.
Solomon Islands has a youthful population, but with that comes huge challenges for the government.
The unemployment figures for Solomon Islands youth has been as high as 75% in recent times.
The government and development partners have come up with various programmes aimed at reducing, or at least assist in reducing, such youth unemployment figures.
The Youth at Work programme was one such initiative. The programme was implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Communities (SPC) with the support of various development partners.
Youth at Work began in mid-2012 as a practical response to the growing issue of youth unemployment. The programme sought to fill a critical gap in youth unemployment through the placement of young people into career pathways and eventually paid employment.
The programme was handed over to the government in 2019 but was not able to achieve the same level of success.
David Alufo'oa, a 33 years old young man from Central Kwara'ae, says the Youth at Work programme saved him and that it is unfortunate that the programme was discontinued.
“I made it as far as Form Seven Arts back in 2009, so leaving school at that stage meant the chances to get to a job was limited,” David recalls.
“I went back to Auki and had nothing to do for a long time, but that changed when the Youth at Work programme was introduced in Auki around 2016. I still remember the day I saw the advertisement posted at a bus stand close to where I was staying in Auki town.”
He says joining Youth at Work was a memorable experience and credits the programme for turning his life around.
"I joined the programme for almost eight months, and it gave me new ideas, confidence and a passion to start fresh. I went through training, empowerment sessions and community work," he said.
“It is time the nation builders train and equip young people; they should appreciate all youths of this nation because they are the future builders of the nation."
End of quote.
Some time ago, I wrote sharing the same kind of sentiments as David and on that occasion I mentioned the Cadet training programme conducted in past years by the Royal Hong Kong Police which instilled character and leadership qualities in young men and women with a view to career choices, not necessarily in the police service.
When I was the Chief of Police in the early 70’s on the Island of St Helena, remotely positioned in the mid-South Atlantic Ocean, I found many young men and young women without paid employment and needing skills training, confidence building and self-improvement instruction.
I travelled to London and went to the headquarters of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme where I was given every assistance in the youth award programme in order to set-up the Award scheme on the remote island.
For the next few years supervising the roll out of the Awards activities and training, I saw great improvements in the youth who participated, not only in confidence and competence but in them gaining beneficial work experience leading to actual job opportunities.
It is perhaps fitting to mention the Award Scheme as a reflection of what the late His Royal Highness Prince Philip did for the help and betterment of young people in more than 144 countries.
Here as some brief facts, quote.
The Duke of Edinburgh's Award (commonly abbreviated DofE) is a youth awards programme founded in the United Kingdom in 1956 by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, that has since expanded to 144 nations. The awards recognise adolescents and young adults for completing a series of self-improvement exercises modelled on Kurt Hahn's solutions to his "Six Declines of Modern Youth".
In the United Kingdom, the programme is run by The Duke of Edinburgh's Award, a royal charter corporation. A separate entity, The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Foundation, promotes the award abroad and acts as a coordinating body for award sponsors in other nations, which are organised into 62 National Award Authorities and a number of Independent Operators. Award sponsors in countries outside the United Kingdom may title their awards Duke of Edinburgh's Awards, though the recognition also operates under a variety of other names in countries without a historic link to the British monarchy, or that have severed such links
End of quote.
I am not aware whether the Award Scheme was every introduced in the Solomon Islands, but I do know that one enterprising young lady participated successful in the programme and found it beneficial in her career, but I rather think her participation in the Award programme was undertaken while she was studying abroad.
I wonder whether the Solomon Islands Government could consider furthering an interest in the Award programme to give the same kind of encouragement and support David enjoyed with the Youth at Work programme?