Whilst there are many migrant students where Youth Connect Foundation operates few continue their schooling into the teenage years. Most leave school at a very young age with no skills for decent employment. These youth land in low skilled and low paid jobs in work unregulated and often dangerous. Once entering into these jobs it is very difficult to leave this cycle. Youth Connect Foundation not only provides opportunities to break this cycle for those who finish high school, but incentive for others to stay in school.
The town of Mae Sot lies 4 kilometers from Myanmar. Over the past twenty years there have been dramatic changes in this town due to the combination of regional politics and international economics. One result has been a higher volume of migrant labourers from Myanmar into Thailand. Most of the jobs available for this population are unskilled and low paying, largely unregulated and often dangerous.
Many of the migrants from Myanmar have stayed here and raised families. Other children have come alone or were sent by their families. These children have grown up in Thailand as stateless persons. A growing number of migrant learning centres has arisen to meet the needs of this population. Recently this population has come to adult age. The first ever graduating class of migrant high school students occurred in the 2008-9 school year.
The overwhelming majority of these young people had never had a job, and had very low levels in skills necessary for employment in Thailand. Many of these young people, having lived in dorms in a state of near total dependence on humanitarian groups, had very little experience in making decisions, taking responsibility and providing for themselves.
The migrant learning centres, constantly faced with financial and human security concerns, had little capacity to plan for the transition of these young people from school to work. After high school it was uncertain if they would be able to land on their feet and hold down decent jobs where they learnt skills that would help improve their lives and their futures.
In partnership with the migrant learning centres, Youth Connect Foundation was able to anticipate this problem. Our project started operating in the migrant learning centres working with the first group of graduating high school students in December of 2008.
Now, Youth Connect Foundation trains students in their last year of school in necessary employment skills via our In-School Training Program.
Currently, Youth Connect Foundation training programs are one of the largest service providers to youth leaving school.
We are able to arrange for a wide variety of different job choices for the apprentices we train, and we are able to match youth with particular skills and areas of interest to fitting jobs. Youth Connect Foundation is the first project operating in Thailand to place migrant youth into positions with Thai employers.
Our intensive training is only one aspect of the work we do with the apprentices. Developing the life skills and independence of the youth is also a key component. Youth Connect Foundation provides services and materials for the apprentices that enable them to start their adult lives. Some of the services we provided the first year included:
– providing work permits through the local Thai government so apprentices are able to stay and work in Mae Sot legally
– bicycles for apprentices to travel to work
– finding rental housing after leaving their dormitory
– purchasing job specific tools and materials as well as proper clothes for work.