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Sri Lankan Salesians help youth in difficult job market

Their vocational centers give school dropouts an advantage in facing country's 'grave unemployment problem'

Sri Lankan Salesians help youth in difficult job market

Students are at the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center in Nochchiyagama. (Photo courtesy Don Bosco Vocational Training Center in Nochchiyagama) 

Published: November 30, 2015 10:24 AM GMT

Updated: November 30, 2015 02:46 PM GMT

A Salesian-run vocational training center is helping underprivileged youth find employment in Sri Lanka's difficult job market.

"I am in a good position to help my family financially and hope to have a better future," said 19-year-old W. Tiron Lakmal who stopped studying due to financial problems and undertook a wielding course at the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center in Nochchiyagama. 

Lakmal said he is grateful for the vocational training or else he would have been just another unemployed youth with no future and no confidence in finding work.

Decades of civil war left young people vulnerable and although the war is now over, unemployment still is a major problem facing the country.

"The center equips youth with the skills they need to compete in the labor market with courses to cover hotel management, technical training and computers,” said Salesian Father Reginold Fernando, who heads the center.

The center particularly trains school dropouts, regardless of religion, to face the "grave unemployment problem" in the country, he said.


Students receive instruction at the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center in Nochchiyagama, Sri Lanka. (Photo courtesy Don Bosco Vocational Training Center)


According to the Sri Lanka Labor Force survey results, there were 422,446 unemployed persons during the first quarter 2015. The unemployment rate for those between 15-24 years of age for the same period is reported to be 21.7 percent. Youth currently comprise more than 23 percent of the total population.

The United Nations Development Program's 2014 National Human Development Report said unemployment for those between 20-24 years old has been around 40 percent for the past decade with only a slight decline in the last year.

Youth unemployment stems from the protracted war, deeply entrenched social factors of class, ethnicity and caste and that unemployment is particularly high in areas directly affected by the armed conflict, it said.

Lakmal who was among 160 other boys and girls to have completed a training this year at the Salesian center said he is now confident in finding work.

Venerable Kirinde Chandarathana Thero, a Buddhist monk, said he is grateful for the center's work because those that pass not only have a skill at hand but are conscientious and disciplined and are able to work with Buddhists and Christians alike.

The Salesians of Don Bosco congregation has been operating in Sri Lanka since 1956. In 1963 they set up their first technical institute and have since established 17 centers across the country.


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