Barbados has scored high marks for the manner in which it has, over the past year, successfully implemented an internationally-renowned programme known as A Ganar.

Programme Coordinator, Partners of the Americas, Washington D.C., Anna Barrett, and Country Coordinator for A Ganar in Barbados, Ytannia Wiggins, both made this clear recently, as they led a tour party, comprising officials from the funding agency the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Government, to a session in progress at the St. Leonard???s Boys??? Secondary School, Richmond Gap, St. Michael.

The tour was part of a fact-finding quarterly government administrative mission by the IDB, assessing the progress of work by the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, with respect to the US$20 million investment loan provided by the Bank, for the Skills For the Future Program.

As part of Component Two of the Skills For the Future Program, A Ganar uses the basic principles of football and other team sports to help at-risk youth, boys and girls, ages 16 to 24, throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to find positive engagements in their communities via employment, entrepreneurship or a return to formal education.

From September 2013 to August 2014, Barbados implemented its brand of A Ganar via a pilot programme, allowing students to gain skills that centred on the core values of self-improvement, communication, discipline, respect, teamwork and a focus on results. The time was split between the field and the classroom to cover a wide variety of activities, games and lessons.

While explaining that her organisation was responsible for managing A Ganar throughout the western hemisphere, Ms. Barrett said: ???We work with 18 countries and we are active in about 15 right now, and Barbados is one of those. We are happy about what we have seen. We have just completed the first full year of the pilot, at the end of the 2014 summer, and we have just started our new year.???

Pointing out that by incorporating schools the island had chosen to use a different model from other A Ganar countries, the official hinted that this unique feature could likely be emulated worldwide. ???So far, we think that it???s been adapted well to the school system here in Barbados, and we look forward to continuing to adapt to the culture of the school system and vocational training, as we continue for the next couple of years.

???It is different generally because we work with community-based organisations, not within the structure of the schools. Here, I think it is a great opportunity for us to continue to adapt our model to work in a structure like the schools!??? Ms. Barrett asserted.

Country Coordinator, Ytannia Wiggins, welcoming the comments from the international body, explained that the programme was being implemented in seven institutions ??? six of them secondary schools and one a post vocational institution. These are St. Leonard???s Boys???, Parkinson Memorial, Frederick Smith, St. George, Princess Margaret and Darryl Jordan Secondary Schools; and the Barbados Vocational Training Board (BVTB).

Ms. Wiggins noted that over 50 participants had successfully completed the pilot, which ran from September 2013 to August 2014, and they were privileged to have undergone training and support offered under the A Ganar curriculum.

???They would have completed all three phases of the programme ??? that being the 100 hours of employability skills; the second phase, which would have been the technical training; and the third phase which would have been the internship and job attachment,??? she said.

The Country Coordinator added that a fourth phase involving monitoring and evaluation would be undertaken as these graduates exit this year and enter the world of work. Participants are monitored for an entire year after completion of Phase Three and an alumni person and the students??? facilitators check in with them every three months to see where they are at.

Speaking on the success of the initiative and the graduates who would have come from all seven of the implementing organisations, the Country Coordinator stressed: ???Given the way the programme was implemented in Barbados, and [where] the youth came from and where they are now, it shows the implementation of the programme was successful for the youth who were chosen to participate in it.???

Success, Ms. Wiggins emphasised, was also measured by the number and quality of job attachments obtained. These were provided through the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, the BVTB, and some private entities that readily endorsed the programme.

Beaming with pride, she added: ???Some youth are currently working at one or two of our private partners that we have linked with. Others have completed their internship at the Barbados Olympic Association or some other institution, such as when we have tournaments here in the island.

“They would come in as assistants and do their internship in that way. We have also linked with a number of non-governmental organisations on the island, as well and we have asked the youth to give of their time ?????sort of like community service but also as an internship.???

Despite this, the Coordinator feels more can be done. Calling on the Barbadian public to engage the A Ganar youth, she said this was imperative because these young people were bringing something different to the table.

???Not only would [it] be their technical training but we do understand that these youth have gone through an intensive programme of employability skills training. When you get an A Ganar youth, you are getting a youth that understands the concept of discipline – to get to work on time, the value of communication between boss and employee, and employer.

You are also getting a youth that has been trained in the methodology of A Ganar where it relates to teamwork. So, you aren???t getting somebody who has the technical training but a youth who has been exposed to the dynamics of what it takes to be a good employer as well. So, they are coming with skills to make it more applicable to the area they are being employed in,??? Ms. Wiggins contended.

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