Features — 05 June 2015 — by Kareem Clarke
52 apprentices graduate from ABTEC program

BELIZE CITY, Wed. June 3, 2015–Recognizing that skills training can equip youth in their quest to secure gainful employment, the American-Belizean Technology and Education Center (ABTEC), which is located on Regent Street in Belize City, has been assisting Belizean youths and adults to garner different vocational skills since January 2014.

ABTEC operates on the principle that, “you don’t have to come from a place of privilege to accomplish great things”, and today the center held a graduation ceremony for 52 trainees from varied backgrounds who plan to prove that mantra to be true.

When the event concluded, Amandala spoke to ABTEC’s deputy director, Stephanie Betancourt, who also serves as an IT teacher for the program, and she elaborated on the programs that they offer to the public.

She said, “We have three different main programs – Computer and Information Technology (IT), which is broken into web development and graphic design, and then we extended it to basic computer and programming [training]. We also offer customer service, hospitality and sales [programs]; first it was only customer service and hospitality, but now we’ve added sales [training] to it, as well as the sewing program, just to teach people basic sewing.”

The training is free of cost, and Betancourt told us that the aim of the program is not only to aid the participants to acquire these specific skills, but the ultimate objective is to help them to also develop themselves holistically.

“In the beginning, we do JRT, known as Job Readiness Training, and it helps them prepare for the work environment, and part of that is being here every day and being on time because we know that it is important to be at your job site on time, so we let this be the environment where they start and where they get that influence to get to work on time”, she told us.

Having a skill, she said, enhances young people’s employability, since oftentimes students come out of school and still don’t have enough skills to get a decent job and pay their bills, and therefore graduates who are looking to improve their skill set are encouraged to join the program.

We also spoke to three of the students who told us about their experiences in the program.

Rayshia Lopez, who graduated from the Customer Service and Hospitality program, said, “For the past 8 weeks, I have learned about effective communication, as well as dealing with internal and external customers. It was a great chance for me to get prepared for the workforce.”

Natasha Lewis was enrolled in the IT program and she explained why she chose that program.

“The experience was wonderful. A friend of mine told me about the program and I decided to try it out, and it was fantastic. I met a lot of friends and I learned about IT, such as Photoshop, creating my own website, designing web pages – it was really great”, Lewis mentioned, adding that she made many sacrifices in order to make it through, but in the end, it paid off.

According to Brittney Molina, who also took the IT class, the program was beneficial in teaching her about punctuality and to learn more about computers so as to pursue her career path as a journalist.

“It was a good opportunity and I’m glad I took it because I gained a lot out of it”, she affirmed.

The program is funded by an NGO known as Just Us Belize, in conjunction with the American Embassy in Belize.

The facilitators have said that they hope to expand the program to other parts of the country, starting in the Orange Walk and Stann Creek districts, as soon as additional funding is available.

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