JKH helps over 9,000 youth develop skills in 2018/19

“When I came home with my poor O/L results, my father asked me what I would do with my life. He actually gave up on me. It was my mother who stood by me, pushed me, and supported me when I decided to apply for the John Keells Vocational Training Programme last year. Now, I work in the kitchen department at Cinnamon Red as a permanent employee and I would like to thank John Keells Foundation for giving me this golden opportunity and helping me build my career,” said Banuka Dhananjaya, a former vocational trainee who is currently employed at Cinnamon Red, Colombo.

According to the latest labour force survey, against an overall unemployment rate of 4.1% in Sri Lanka, youth unemployment remains high with almost one-fifth of that being in the 15-24 age group.

“The youth unemployment rate corresponding to the third quarter of 2018 is 19.6%, the highest reported unemployment rate among all age groups,” the survey report by the Census and Statistics Department revealed. Moreover, the report said that the unemployment rates for males and females for the 15-24 age group was 16% and 26.1%, respectively, as against the overall unemployment rates of 2.8% and 6.6% for males and females, respectively.

Noting that broad access to quality education and skills development are of crucial importance in ensuring the availability of a productive and motivated labour force in Sri Lanka, the John Keells Group prioritised the need for developing market relevant skills of children and youth.

Accordingly, the Group, through its CSR entity John Keells Foundation (JKF), engages in an array of long-term, sustainable initiatives aimed at developing and enhancing career skills of children and youth under its CSR pillar of education. During the financial year 2018/19, over 9,200 youth have been impacted.

English language scholarships aimed at enhancing English communication, ICT, and soft skills of schoolchildren and university youth; public examination preparation classes for schoolchildren; higher education scholarships to promote pursuit of advanced studies among economically disadvantaged youth; career guidance and vocational training programmes for post-O/L students and school leavers; soft skills workshops for university undergraduates aimed at enhancing their employment opportunities and career skills; and exposure programmes and internships through the Cinnamon Youth Empowerment Programme are some of the initiatives through which the Group worked towards reducing the unemployment rate among children and youth in Sri Lanka. The overarching objectives of these initiatives are to complement the state education and higher education systems and improve outcomes, develop market relevant skills, attitudes, and competencies, and thereby enhance access to employment opportunities to a greater number of youth who can in turn gainfully contribute to fostering a prosperous, sustainable, and equitable socio-economic environment for all, in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goals.

John Keells Foundation is the CSR entity of John Keells Holdings PLC – a Sri Lankan company which is the country’s largest listed conglomerate in the Colombo Stock Exchange, operating over 70 companies in seven diverse industry sectors. JKH provides employment to over 13,000 persons and has been ranked as Sri Lanka’s “most respected entity” for 13 years. Whilst being a full member of the World Economic Forum and a member of the UN Global Compact, JKH drives its vision of “empowering the nation for tomorrow” through the John Keells Foundation, which works in the six focus areas of education, health, livelihood development, arts and culture, environment, and disaster relief.