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Giving Haiti’s young people vocational skills

Over 630,000 Haitians are still living in tents after the earthquake of 2010 according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Although camp residents tell the IOM they want to leave, most do not have the money to rent somewhere or pay for repairs to damaged houses. There is also a shortage of skilled workmen to carry out repairs. However, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) warn against foreign workers being brought into Haiti. Instead, charities such as ActionAid and World Concern want employment kept for local people.

NGOs are therefore working to try and bridge the skills gap. Founded in 2005 by the musicians Wyclef Jean and Jerry Duplessis, Yéle Haiti is one such organization. As part of its employment and youth development and education programs, it offers vocational training for young Haitians. Those accepted onto its vocational courses are often selected from the organization’s 2,000 Corps workers, employed for non-skilled jobs such as street and canal cleaning. Some of these workers are then selected to attend courses in carpentry, masonry, plumbing and electrical work.

Last month, the first class of Yéle Haiti graduates received their diplomas in key construction trades. Aged between 18 and 34, the graduates now have the necessary skills to find regular employment. Reuters spoke to some of these first graduates, such as James Tabuteau, a 25 year-old newlywed with a baby son. James trained as a carpenter and told the news agency his dream is to have his own carpentry shop one day. Another graduate, 29 year-old Jean, admitted that he had never held down a job before. But now he is a qualified plumber, Jean says “I see my future differently”. Both men were confident of finding jobs quickly and becoming involved in work which was just as important to the reconstruction of Haiti as the roles of white-collar professionals such as doctors and engineers.

Michel Martelly, the new Haitian President, has spoken of his aim to create the kind of qualified workforce required to meet the needs of his country, particularly in the construction, tourism and manufacturing sectors. Some businesses have already promised to hire local trainees from organizations such as Yéle Haiti. A renowned musician himself, Mr Martelly has praised the work of the organization set up by Wyclef Jean and Jerry Duplessis in giving young people “profession[s] in order to find sustainable jobs”. All three men believe that employment for Haitians is a key way to pulling their country out of poverty.

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