Career advisory services in schools to “catch them young.”

Jun 13, 2016

Thomas going home with friends after the seminar to launch the Career Advisory and Placement Services (CAPS) for schools. © John Terry/UNDP Sierra Leone

Thomas Vandi, a 14-year old pupil of Lumbebu International School in Kenema is excited about his future. Like many his age, Thomas was drawn to a certain career because of some family influence – one member of the family is in a particular field so they also choose that field. But Thomas thinks it is time to make a change.

“The session was interesting and I learnt a lot. Before now I wanted to be an accountant because my uncle is, but this programme helped me realise that I am good with my hands, and I passed Integrated Science and Mathematics quite well. So I am beginning to think strongly about doing engineering.” He said.

He had just attended a career advisory seminar at the Eastern Polytechnic in his city and for the first time he has received advice on career choices. His school was selected by the National Youth Commission (NAYCOM) and Ministry of Youth Affairs for the establishment of Career Advisory and Placement Services (CAPS) for the first time.

For 19-year old Florence Balay of the Holy Rosary Secondary School, how and why one should make career decisions, was the most important bit of the launch. Though Florence comes from a home where she is given the opportunity to choose what she wants to be, she is still uncertain about what she wants to do. “I want to be a nurse because I want to help sick people in my community”. She said after the training.

The National Youth Commission launched the pilot phase of the CAPS for secondary schools at the Eastern Polytechnic in Kenema June 10 for young people like Thomas and Florence. The pilot project introduces CAPS to three secondary schools in Kenema district – Lumbebu International, Ansarul Islamic and Holy Rosary. 

Team Leader for UNDP’s Inclusive Growth Cluster, Ghulam Sherani said while the project has been largely successful in universities and other tertiary institutions, sometimes it’s too late to help them when they are already in university. He said “Sometimes some of them have been encouraged into a wrong career path. They realise this when they are in university and it’s too late to change. This is the reason why we think we should start advising them at a younger age- hence the secondary schools. “

Hassan Conteh, UNDP’s Business Development Services Adviser added “We don’t want to wait until they take the wrong path. We want to catch them young.”

Whilst the project is implemented by the Ministry of Youth Affairs through the National Youth Commission, technical, financial and logistical support is from the United Nations Development Programme. The objective of the CAPS is to help students sharpen their strengths and think about career paths early on in life in order to better compete for jobs.

Composite Manager, Ministry of Youth Affairs, George Dambo gave the keynote address and launched the pilot in Kenema. He told the pupils that not knowing what they want to become could be the beginning of life’s failure.

The NAYCOM Programme Manager, Momodu Wudie, said with UNDP support, young people are making better career choices through CAPS, already established in all the universities across the country. He said CAPS at secondary school level will help pupils choose career paths based on their strengths and passions.

Presently CAPS centers  are available in five tertiary institutions in Sierra Leone, to prepare students with the necessary tools for the workplace and to help with counseling on career development, internships, employment and even information and guidance on graduate programmes.

To address the problem of youth unemployment, UNDP through its Youth Employment and Empowerment Programme (YEEP) has been supporting the Ministry of Youth Affairs and the National Youth Commission to implement projects, like the Career Advisory and Placement Services, the Graduate Internship Project, the Business Development Services scheme, and other projects, to help young people gain relevant skills and attract jobs in the already-tight job market.

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