The Youth Career Initiative is a 24-week program that helps at-risk youth in mostly developing countries find gainful, full-time employment within the tourism and hospitality industry. The idea for the program, which started in 1995 as the Youth Career Development Program in Bangkok, stemmed from Pan Pacific Hotels’ contributions to the community. Initially, the program only had eight girls and one boy enrolled from welfare schools in Thailand.
Today, the Youth Career Initiative (YCI) reaches 12 countries, partners with more than 10 major hospitality companies—including IHG, Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, Starwood, and Carlson Rezidor, to name a few—and enrolls nearly 450 students every year. Candidates must be high school graduates ages 18 to 21 who show an eagerness for self-development but have limited ways to find decent employment or no opportunities to further their education. Once students successfully complete the program, hotels host a graduation ceremony with partner hotels and local nonprofit organizations to provide YCI graduates with support in securing job placements within and outside hospitality.
This additional source of entry-level hospitality employees has proven to be an important contributor to the local economies. “The main attribute we look for in candidates is motivation. If they want to change their lives and their circumstances, if they are motivated to learn skills, to find a job, and to develop a career, then we would like to give them the chance,” says Alberto Canovas, head of YCI. “We have programs all over, spanning Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, where we do our best to maintain the same standards. However, we also must make the program relevant to the local market where we operate. We must be relevant to hotel partners, relevant to local nonprofit partners, and relevant to eligible local young people.”
In the United States, YCI recently launched a pilot program in Atlanta in partnership with Starwood. Subject to funding, Canovas says YCI hopes to conduct further research into specific U.S. locations in order to assess feasibility before moving to a second stage of program implementation. “This pilot presented us with an excellent learning opportunity to better understand the U.S. market and the need for a program like YCI,” he says. YCI also recently launched in Kenya to help six young people, including two survivors of human trafficking learn the skills they need to get back into the workforce through a rotational program with a partner hotel.
In addition to the United States and Kenya, Canovas says YCI has other new projects in the pipeline. The organization is in the process of launching programs in a number of new locations across the globe, with Beirut and Cairo scheduled to go live first, hopefully before the end of 2015, followed by Istanbul, Bangkok, Panama City, and San Juan in 2016.
For more information, visit youthcareerinitiative.org.