Last Tuesday evening my friend Jalaludin Khan invited me to chat with his Tour Guide class. Jalaludin teaches a Tour Guide vocational skills training programme that falls under the Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme (YTEPP). According to the Government portal, YTEPP is an intervention strategy aimed at addressing the issue of escalating unemployment, particularly among young persons between the ages of 15 and 25. YTEPP does this through more than 80 vocational courses in 12 occupational areas, with training conducted in six-month cycles.
The YTEPP Tour Guide class was at the Belmont Secondary school. When I arrived the class was nearly empty. The students were not there on time, I was told, because most of them have full time jobs. That I could understand but what surprised me was that there was not a single male student in Jalaludin’s class that day. In fact, as I walked through the corridors of the school, I could not help but notice that so few young males were taking advantage of the opportunity afforded by the programmes on offer. That is of course a topic all on its own, so I will leave that for another time.
That evening, we were talking about opportunities within the travel and tourism industry in general, and tour guiding in particular. Three things that I took away from the exchange that Tuesday evening were – hard work, the importance of relationships and the importance of believing in dreams.
Firstly, so many of our young people are very hard working. A media commentator I was reading on line, made the point that the daily news delights in reporting extreme events. In frequently reporting extreme events, it becomes easy to believe that the abnormal is in fact, normal. If it bleeds or otherwise invokes fear, then it all too frequently becomes the leading story. This is the main reason I no longer watch the evening news on television (including the foreign cable tv news channels that we sometimes seek to emulate). That evening, I was reminded that many young people are still law abiding, conscientious, willing to work honestly and to work hard to achieve their objectives
Secondly, during the short exchange, special attention was paid to the importance of relationships. As I have mentioned in a previous column, I believe that we have a ‘contact society’. It is a society where who you know (or who knows you) could often be as important as what you know. This is simultaneously a blessing and a curse – all depending on one’s point of view. As I thought about my last 9 years as a travel and tourism professional, I would be dishonest if I did not admit that relationships were critical to my own career progression. Recognizing this, Jalaludin was helping his class by ensuring that he had as many guest speakers as possible from the industry not just visit, but also meet each of his students thus inviting students into his own extensive network of travel and tourism practitioners.
Finally, there was the importance of keeping ones eyes on the prize regardless of the challenges life throws at us. Another speaker present that evening recalled how difficult it was as a young person, growing up not just as an immigrant in a new country, but dealing with extreme poverty. Yet despite the obstacles, she managed to complete school and secure a rewarding job in her industry of choice – which just happened to be the travel industry.
Those who know me well, say that I am an idealist, but I do believe that it is critical to have something to aim for – to work towards. As Paulo Coelho said in the Alchemist – “…it’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting”. Sitting there that evening, listening to these young ladies speak, I felt a sense of hope for the future of our small island. For those interested, there is much information on the various programmes on the YTEPP website. Visit www.ytepp.gov.tt.
My name is Derren Joseph and I love my country. As always, I end by saying that despite our challenges, we are so blessed to live in this beautiful land. Let us continue to have the audacity of hope in the future of our beloved country.
Derren is a travel and tourism consultant. The views and opinions expressed here are solely the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of any company or institution affiliated with the writer. Email him on firstname.lastname@example.org