“When I came home with my poor O/L results, my father asked me what I would do with my life now? 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’m working 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 for 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, as against 4.1 percent overall unemployment rate in Sri Lanka, youth unemployment remains high with almost one-fifth of those in the 15 – 24 year age group out of work “Youth unemployment rate corresponding to the third quarter 2018 is 19.6 percent, 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 year age group was 16.0 percent and 26.1 percent as against the overall unemployment rates of 2.8 percent for males and 6.6 percent for females. 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 has prioritized 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 9200 youth have been impacted. English Language scholarships aimed at enhancing the English communication, ICT and soft skills of school children and university youth, public examination preparation classes for school children, Higher Education scholarships to promote pursuit of advanced studies among economically disadvantaged youth, Career Guidance and Vocational Training Programmes for post O’Level students and school leavers, Soft Skills Workshops for University undergraduates aimed at enhancing their employment opportunities, career skills, exposure programs and internships through the Cinnamon Youth Empowerment Programme are some of the initiatives through which the Group worked towards reducing the unemployment rate amongst the children and youth of 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 (JKH), a Sri Lankan company, which is also the country’s largest listed conglomerate in the Colombo Stock Exchange, operating over 70 companies in 7 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 & Culture, Environment and Disaster Relief.