From Youth-at-Risk to Youth with Purpose – YMCA Celebrates 10 Years of Strengthening Youth

Amy (not her real name) scored an impressive 14 points for her “N” Levels, intensifying her teachers’ expectations and her pressure to excel. “It’s daunting knowing that my teachers too had high hopes of me. I felt like I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.” Gradually, Amy’s mental health worsened as she suffered from panic attacks and hyperventilated during lessons.

Unable to cope, she sought help from a psychiatrist. While this intervention was therapeutic, it wasn’t enough. Feeling despaired from the insurmountable stress, Amy dropped out of school. She found out about the YMCA Vocational and Soft Skills Programme (VaSSP) through her school counsellor. Her interest in cryptocurrency, stocks, and e-commerce led her to apply for the web design course.

“VaSSP was certainly eye-opening. I enjoyed their approach to learning. It’s fun and personalised, with my engaging mentors and teachers patiently answering all my endless queries! Also, there are opportunities to gain an internship with external agencies and start-ups.”

The budding entrepreneur is applying the theories she learned to her online drop shipping business while balancing two part-time jobs.

“VaSSP has reignited my passion for learning. I have become a self-starter, looking to take up self-improvement courses to carve out my own path to success.”

Amy is among some 700 youths engaged by the YMCA VaSSP since its launch in 2011. This year, it celebrated its 10th year anniversary. The YMCA Vocational and Soft Skills Programme Graduation Ceremony 2021 celebrated the achievements of over 20 youths, including Amy, who have graduated from this year’s programme. Many of the youth have had to overcome challenges in life to forge a new path outside the conventional education system.

The YMCA Vocational and Soft Skills Programme is a 6-month youth intervention programme that engages out-of-school youth to equip them with skills to support them in accessing further education or employment. Youth may choose between job skills such as hairdressing, culinary arts, or early childhood enrichment, and acquire soft skills including resume writing, interviewing skills, and conflict management. With life and career guidance from social workers and work experience, an average of 62% of engaged youth enter further education or employment within five years of graduating from the programme.

“We are honoured to have run this programme for 10 years and counting. The youth we serve in this programme have continually shown great spirit, perseverance, and a dedication to transforming their difficulties into stepping stones towards a brighter future. Every year, they inspire and motivate us to keep reaching out to touch the lives of more youth and support them in pursuing their dreams,” said Steve Loh, General Secretary & CEO, YMCA of Singapore.

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“I would like to commend the YMCA of Singapore for this programme, designed to provide not just second chances, but a tailored and deeply human and uplifting experience to support our youth in finding better futures,” said Eric Chua, Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development, and Culture, Community and Youth.