New Three-Way Partnership to Boost Youth Intervention Programme Effectiveness

Youth-at-risk learning barista in YMCA Vocational and Soft Skills Programme

At the tender age of 16, Megan (not her real name) has taken on the role of a single mother. Managing the household while taking care of her child and schooling proved too overwhelming, so she left school. She was referred to YMCA’s Vocational and Soft Skills Programme (VaSSP), where she was trained in industry vocational and soft skills. There, she excelled, finding that she learned better hands-on. She is currently completing an internship and hopes to find long-term employment upon graduation.

Megan is just one of over 600 youth strengthened by YMCA VaSSP, a 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, make-up, or web-design, 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.

While these are encouraging results, much can still be done to further support the remaining youth to carve better futures. In a new three-way partnership between Social Service Agency YMCA of Singapore, impact guarantor Lorinet Foundation, and donor TL Whang Foundation Limited, YMCA will receive $150,000 to enhance the programme to increase its effectiveness. The YMCA foresees this to lead to over $400,000 of additional impact over five years, in the form of increasing the youth re-engagement rate from 62% to 75%.

“We are delighted to support this innovative programme. Youth employability and livelihoods has always been our priority, and I believe outcome-based funding models are ideally suited to advancing effective Youth interventions and achieving long-term sustainability,” said Pierre Lorinet, Chairman of Lorinet Foundation.

“We have been a supporter of the VaSSP and are pleased to support enhancements to the programme.  We are particularly keen on this innovative funding model which we believe should lead to a stronger outcome for the programme in the longer run,” said Chan Chia Lin, Director of TL Whang Foundation.

The partnership is Singapore’s first-ever creative partnership involving a Social Impact Guarantee (SIG), which ensures the money donated will be returned and channelled into another charity of the donor’s choice if the promised impact is not achieved. The SIG encourages collaborations between public and private sectors in making positive social impact, while boosting the charity’s accountability and rigorous outcome-focused practices.

This collaboration was the result of a partnership between YMCA of Singapore and Tri-Sector Associates, in exploring innovative ways of encouraging public and private organisations to be involved in social service in Singapore. Prior to the programme, Tri-Sector Associates worked closely with YMCA to analyse data from past iterations of the programme to better understand the programme’s impact, understand the value of potential outcomes, and refine enhancements. Tri-Sector will continue to render support and technical advice to the YMCA and the programme.

With these funds, YMCA is introducing three enhancements to VaSSP. Firstly, the improved VaSSP will feature an internship element for all youth. For youth who were not able to enter further education or employment at the end of the programme, they will have access to an extended 3-month period of support from social workers and go through an enhanced learning programme that includes career discovery workshops. These enhancements allow for individually tailored progression trajectories with the support of social workers in navigating specific challenges in each youth’s life situation.

These enhancements were implemented based on the social workers’ observation over the years. The improvements will help them navigate the job search process, support them in overcoming obstacles in their personal lives and social environments, and provide them an individually tailored programme to bridge their learning to real-life application.

“Through this partnership, the programme will reach out to the youths more effectively. We are honoured to implement this programme while including other organisations into the work that we do, so we may make a bigger positive impact on society together,” said Steve Loh, General Secretary & CEO of YMCA of Singapore.

“We are thrilled to have been able to support the YMCA to pioneer this first-of-its-kind collaboration. We hope it will lead to enhanced impact on the ground, and open up new opportunities for the social innovation ecosystem,” said Kevin Tan, CEO of Tri-Sector.

Contributed by Sim Yu Xiang