By Alberto Canovas, Youth Career Initiative
Business has the power to change lives. And the lives of hundreds of young people have been transformed by a global training programme providing new opportunities and experiences.
Take Jessica, a young person from Brazil. She comes from a deprived community in São Paulo and was not able to finish high school. She completed the six-month Youth Career Initiative programme, training in various departments at the Grand Hyatt São Paulo and learning new skills.
An example of inclusive business in action, the impact of the programme has been far-reaching. Jessica for instance is clear about the benefits of taking part in the scheme. She says: “YCI is a life-changing experience for people who cannot afford further education. I learned that teamwork was fundamental to the success of the hotel and without it you have nothing”. Jessica went on to win a scholarship at a private university in São Paulo to study Gastronomy. Her story is one of many showing that there are many potential opportunities for young people who participate in YCI. She continues: “After six months of the YCI programme, I got my first job, a promotion and access to an undergraduate course”.
Started in Thailand in 1995, YCI involves a six-month training programme delivered in partnership with the international hotel industry. Each year, hundreds of young people in 11 countries participate in the programme with over 50 leading hotels. Providing training opportunities within major international hotel companies improves young people’s employability and enhances their long-term social and economic opportunities.
Participants gain a range of job-related skills and experience a wide range of business areas within a successful full-service hotel operation, such as catering, housekeeping, engineering, events and human resources. YCI empowers young participants to make informed career choices and realise the options available to them.
The hotel companies involved also benefit greatly from the scheme. These include: Carlson and The Rezidor Hotel Group, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, InterContinental Hotels Group, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International Inc., NH Hoteles, Orient-Express and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Inc.
YCI presents an opportunity to tackle social issues whilst enabling staff to connect with their local communities and gain mentoring skills via training the participants, which also helps to develop a loyal workforce. 85% of young people graduating from YCI secure employment in the hotel industry, another industry, or pursue further education. This emphasises that engagement between young people and the private sector can create broader socio-economic benefits. Roeland Vos, President of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, EMEA sums it up thus: ‘YCI is an extremely worthwhile programme, which provides young people from disadvantaged backgrounds with life and vocational skills to give them better opportunities to survive’.
The success of the scheme has not gone unnoticed. It was highlighted in a recent report launched by the UN and youth-led development agency Restless Development – called the ‘Private Sector Toolkit for Working with Youth‘ – to show the benefits of engagement between the private sector and young people. The report demonstrates how corporate engagement not only transforms young people’s lives, but also has a positive impact for companies and wider society.