Helping youths with career choices

Guyana Chronicle
June 18, 2001

IN A WORLD where the explosion of information and knowledge is making careers more multifaceted than ever, young school leavers are faced with bewildering and exciting choices of jobs.

A century ago, when classes in society were firmly in place, the son of the tradesman knew that he was expected to follow in his father's footsteps just as the son of a clerk or banker would inherit his father's occupation. However, in these egalitarian days, the son of the lowly janitor could reasonably aspire to be an academic once he is able to access the necessary funds by way of scholarships or grants.

Over two and a half decades ago, the local education authorities introduced the Work Study programme so that imminent school leavers could experience the environment of the workplace and acquire ideas of the procedures regarding sound office or plant behaviours and the responsibilities of both employers and employees.

The Work Study stint traditionally commences after tests at the end of the academic year in the month of June and continues for approximately six weeks. Depending on the nature of the place of employment, students are given light tasks which they are expected to complete under careful supervision.

The agency is sometimes happy for a few extra hands to help with their production process and quite fittingly, the students are offered stipends or allowances. And parents are happy to know that for part of the school holidays, at least, their offspring would be gainfully occupied. The arrangement seemed a good one for everybody.

That is why we were dismayed one day last week to learn that the Work Study programme was under some sort of review by the education authorities.

An event aired by the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) informed listeners that students were reluctant to do their stints at those agencies which were known not to pay high stipends and were eager to be assigned to those companies which they believed to be more prestigious and better-paying.

Worse still, some parents were insistent that their children be accorded attachments paying the highest wages. Then, too, some companies and agencies were being very selective about the students coming their way, with some going so far as to refuse those youths assigned to them by the authorities.

We find these developments somewhat distressing since the whole objective of the work study programme seems to be a casualty in the process. We do appreciate the fact that because of the state of the national economy, creative job places are difficult to find even for some graduates of tertiary institutions. And until the economy expands through greater flows of both local and foreign investments, attractive jobs for young people will continue to be hard to come by.

But, to prevent a student from participating in the attachment programme because the place of work may not seem as attractive as another more affluent agency is unfortunate. That student might be missing out on the opportunity to gain an interest in a series of skills that could be the launching pad of a wonderful and satisfying career.

It is to be hoped that the Work Study programme would continue in whatever guise the education experts choose and that the enterprising youth of the nation would find it a sound vehicle for selecting creative and satisfying careers.