UPtt empowering youths for a brighter future

Isaiah Phillip, right, vice curator of  Global Shapers Community, Port of Spain Hub, presents a token to a representative of ResuWrite for facilitating the session on resume writing at the Nalis Diego Martin Public Library.  - Photo courtesy UPtt
Isaiah Phillip, right, vice curator of Global Shapers Community, Port of Spain Hub, presents a token to a representative of ResuWrite for facilitating the session on resume writing at the Nalis Diego Martin Public Library. - Photo courtesy UPtt

WHILE school may help equip youths for the tasks they will have to complete in their jobs or careers, it usually does not prepare them for the world of work.

Isaiah Phillip, vice curator of Global Shapers Community, Port of Spain Hub, noted the disparity and spearheaded Unlocking Potential: Empowering Youths for A Brighter Future (UPtt), an initiative to equip forms five and six students with essential employability and entrepreneurial stills, nurturing their development for the evolving job market.

Phillip said UPtt came out of Global Shapers, a local NGO born out of the World Economic Forum. It is made up of people under the age of 30 working together to address social and environmental challenges locally, regionally and globally.

“One of the impact areas we wanted to focus on is reskilling for the future. And that is where the programme UPtt came from. We saw a gap between the knowledge students leave school with, and what employers require them to have.

UPtt participants using laptops supplied by SmartkidsTT to see how coding and AI is used in our everyday lives. - Photo courtesy UPtt

“This gap is mostly felt by youths from underserved communities because they don't have access to the opportunities and resources other persons do, so we wanted to target underserved communities with the programme.”

Therefore, UPtt was engineered as a four-day programme which took place every Saturday in June for ten students of Diego Martin North Secondary School.

Phillip said Global Shapers had previously worked with Diego Martin North, so decided to give the students there the opportunity to be in the first cohort of the UPtt programme. The teachers chose students they believed had the potential to grow but were stymied due to their background or environment.

“We would have covered a range of topics that would help to bridge this gap between what they would have learned in school and what employers require, but also general life skills that could carry them throughout their entire lives.”

The workshops included collaboration and communication, digital literacy and the future of work, innovation and entrepreneurship, financial literacy, professional development and resume writing. And they covered topics like conflict resolution, leadership development and the benefits and dangers of artificial intelligence.

Logan Steuart, CEO of Bertie's Pepper Sauce, providing details on entrepreneurship and answering the questions of UPtt participants. - Photo courtesy UPtt.

He said with the numerous videos of youths fighting which were circulating on social media in the past few years, they felt communication and conflict resolution was important. He said youths needed to know how to communicate in a respectful way that did not lead to escalation when they had differences with others.

“And we added innovation and entrepreneurship because, for most youths, working for others is not something they are looking for. So we needed to explore entrepreneurship so they understood that owning their own businesses was viable career choice.

“It requires a certain set of skill sets and values, so we brought in some entrepreneurs to speak with the students about some of the challenges they would have faced in setting up their businesses, and how the students could go about doing it for themselves.”

On the final day of the programme, the facilitators did career mapping for each student, giving them a more definite path on which to move forward. The students were also provided professional headshots that could be used on any professional online profile.

In addition, the students were given the opportunity to have a job interview with Restaurant Holdings Ltd, not just for practice but for jobs in the company’s franchises and head office that aligned with their interests. The company is the local franchisee for Burger King, Popeyes and Little Caesars.

“We would like to improve this element. We want to provide the participants with at least a two-month internship opportunity or an employment opportunity, so we would have to form partnerships with a wider range of companies in the private sector which would cover the scope of interests of the participants.”

UPtt participants look at a short film on the role of teamwork as part of communication and conflict resolution workshop. - Photo courtesy UPtt

For example, he said one of the participants wanted to be a videographer while another, a singer. He said UPtt was trying to connect them with local industry professionals so they could get advice specific to their desired fields.

An e-mail address was also created for participants to reach out to UPtt throughout their careers for mentorship and guidance. He said the programme would use the Global Shapers network to connect them with professions in their fields of interest for advice.

Phillip said the NGO was working on taking the programme into a rural community next.

“One of the main aims of the programmes is for persons from underserved communities to know there are more opportunities beyond the scope of what they and the people around them, even their teachers, may know. That they aren’t limited to just TT. The whole world has opportunities they can explore.

“A lot of times, participants may think that they're restrained by their financial position, but we also hope to guide them to grant opportunities that exist and aid them in achieving their goals.”

In addition to Restaurant Holdings, sponsors included Unit Trust Corporation (UTC), First Citizens Bank, NCB Merchant Bank TT and Massy Foundation.

Rochard Francis, 18, recent graduate of Diego Martin North Secondary School, seen here in his graduation suit, was one of the ten students who participated in the first UPtt programme in June. Photo courtesy Rochard Francis. - Photo courtesy Rochard Francis

Participant Rochard Francis, 18, had nothing but praise for the programme and its facilitators.

He said he got involved with UPtt when his dean informed him he was signed up for a class, assuring him he would be interested in it. He said although he was uncertain about it at first, he attended the first workshop and found himself both interested and excited about completing the programme.

“What interested me is that we could have talked about anything and it felt like a safe space. While learning new stuff we were having fun and we were able to interact with different people.”

He believed what he learned would be helpful to him in the future, especially the classes about artificial intelligence (AI) and financial literacy as he wanted to be a videographer and music engineer.

He added that a representative from UTC taught them a lot that he could use now and in the future, personally and for his possible business, including simple tips on saving.

Francis is waiting his Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination results before planning his next move, but he intends to do some courses to learn more about his interests. He has applied to a graphic design course at the Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme and is awaiting a response.

“I want to touch on everything about technology that I can so I could have several possible sources of income in the future.”

He said he plans to share some of the financial advice he received with friends and family, and encouraged other youths to take advantage of the programme as it was beneficial to him and his fellow participants.


"UPtt empowering youths for a brighter future"

More in this section