The Youth Skills Development Program is a collaboration between Alcoa, Brunei Darussalam’s national Youth Development Centre, and the country’s leading investment promotion agency, the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB).
The program is formulated and run by Youth Development Resources (YDR), a non-profit company that promotes self-reliance among Bruneian youth. It is supported by BEDB in partnership with Alcoa and Petroleum Geo-Services from Norway.
The objective of the Youth Skills Development Program is to help Brunei’s youth succeed in either starting up their own businesses or becoming skilled members of the workforce. It is targeted at underprivileged youth, particularly those who have low education levels, were previously involved in drug-related activities, come from low-income families, or are victims of abuse and/or neglect.
The program consists of three main elements. Regular motivational talks and mentoring sessions aspire to foster self-confidence among participants to counteract the discrimination they often face due to their backgrounds. For those looking to run their own business, a business micro-grant scheme aims to promote self-reliance through entrepreneurship.
Through these three elements, it is hoped the participants will have the appropriate training to improve their livelihood by either securing employment or starting/sustaining their own businesses.
The business micro-grant scheme has a number of unique features designed to facilitate the setting up of a small business. It has a simple, speedy application and evaluation process with no requirement for guarantor, collateral, and repayment. In addition, the grant disbursements are in the form of equipment needed for the business proposed by the applicant.
As of December 2012, 56 grants totaling BND133,347 (US$107,721) have been disbursed since the program's startup in 2009. As a result, 56 new small businesses have been formed. Of these, 41 new entrepreneurs are still actively running their businesses. An additional six are currently pausing in their business activities while they pursue further studies, take up additional employment, or relocate their existing premises.
Through the support of a number of program partners, including local Bruneian and foreign motivational speakers and individual and corporate mentors, the Youth Skills Development Program is helping change the lives of Bruneian youth.
Participants in the Youth Skills Development Program follow a predetermined process that evaluates their preferences and capabilities and provides the skills and knowledge they need for their specific path.
The program’s dual curriculum covers these major areas of study:
- Business Skills Enhancement
- How to Write a Business Plan
- Cash Flow Management
- Customer Service
- Business Mentorship
- Motivational Skills
- Employment Skills Enhancement
- How to Write a Resume
- Personal Grooming
- Mock Interview Sessions
- Employment Mentorship
- Motivational Skills
Dayang Hamimah started her weaving business with the help of two business micro-grants. Her staple product is the traditional Malay songket, a cloth interwoven with gold or silver thread that is worn with the traditional Brunei Malay national dress.
Songket can be simple or very elaborate. It is used mainly by men, but more elaborate pieces are worn by both men and women for special cultural and state functions. It often is given as part of the traditional wedding dowry.
Hamimah weaves a variety of good quality songket pieces, which are also popular as souvenirs for tourists and corporate visitors to Brunei.
Two business micro-grants helped Dayang Hajidah build her food business. She now owns a food stall in Brunei’s Kuala Belait district and another in Seria town. One operates Monday to Thursday selling snacks to school children, and the other operates Friday to Sunday. At her weekend food stall, Hajidah sells at least 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of her signature lamb chops each day.
Awang Binjai started his tailoring business with the help of a business micro-grant. His customers range from young girls to grown women, with some men as well. He focuses mainly on Malay traditional dresses, baju kurung, which are widely favoured by many Bruneian women. The dresses are frequently worn in a variety of styles as everyday wear and casual office attire, as well as for traditional or religious functions and weddings. Binjai also tailors special baju pengatin, the elaborate matching wedding outfits worn by the bride and groom at traditional Malay wedding ceremonies.