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SRI LANKA: Salesian Missionaries Provide Technical Training to Poor Youth to Help Them Gain Employment in Difficult Labor Market

(MissionNewswire) The Don Bosco Vocational Training Center, located in the city of Nochchiyagama in northern Sri Lanka, is providing underprivileged youth an opportunity to gain the skills necessary to find and retain employment in Sri Lanka’s difficult job market. More than 160 students completed their training this year and are confident they will find work.

Youth currently comprise more than 23 percent of the country’s total population and those between the ages of 20 and 24 years face an unemployment rate close to 40 percent, according to  a 2014 United Nations Human Development report. A Sri Lanka Labor Force Survey conducted during the first quarter of 2015 found there were 422,446 unemployed persons between the ages of 18 and 24 years.

Since 1983, ethnic violence in the north and east of the country has forced more than 800,000 people from their homes and sources of livelihood. Thousands of children lost one or both parents in the conflict and the number of households headed by women increased, negatively impacting the poverty rate in the country.

Nine out of 10 poor people in Sri Lanka live in rural areas, according to the World Bank. More than 40 percent of the country’s rural poor are small-scale farmers with farm production often hampered by neglect and low investment levels resulting from poor financial services and limited technology. Sri Lankans are affected by a significant lack of infrastructure including roads, electricity, irrigation systems and communication channels. In several areas of the country, seven out of 10 people have no access to electricity and almost half of the population does not have access to safe drinking water. Malnutrition among children is also common.

“Youth unemployment stems from the ongoing war and deeply entrenched social factors of class, ethnicity and caste,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian missionaries working in the country focus their efforts on meeting basic needs as well as education and social development services for poor youth and their families.”

Salesian schools, services and programs throughout Sri Lanka are helping to break the cycle of poverty while giving many hope for a more positive and productive future. The Don Bosco Vocational Training Center equips its students with the skills they need to compete in the labor market by offering courses in hotel management, electrical and mechanical engineering, computers and more. The center is also serving local employers by providing them a well-trained labor force.

“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 welding course at the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center, according to a recent UCA News article about the school.

Lakmal said he is grateful for the vocational training or else he would have been just another unemployed young person with no future and no confidence to find work.

Many of the technical school’s students are school dropouts seeking a second chance. The school is accessible to poor youth regardless of their religious affiliation who are looking to dedicate themselves to overcoming the challenging labor conditions in the country. The Salesians of Don Bosco have been operating in Sri Lanka since 1956. In 1963, missionaries set up their first technical institute and since then, have established 17 more in locations across the country.



The Don Bosco Vocational Training Center in Nochchiyagama, Sri Lanka

UCA News – Sri Lankan Salesians help youth in difficult job market

World Bank – Sri Lanka