Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: October 14, 2014

Mentoring and Internships for Visually Impaired

Founded in 2001 by the Salesians, the Pinardi Federation of Madrid, Spain, has long fostered job skills training and work preparation for society’s most vulnerable youth. Now, a new agreement with the Atresmedia Foundation further expands this mission to include the visually impaired.

More than ever, opportunities for education and employment are crucial for youth in Spain. Here — where income inequality is the greatest among the 27 countries comprising the European Union — a “lost generation” is emerging: young people under the age of 25 who are chronically out of work.

Impoverished youth, especially, easily become ensnared in this vicious cycle.With no opportunities for education and too few employable skills, they struggle to find and retain stable work. And, with no income or other financial resources to speak of, they cannot afford the employment training they need to improve their living conditions. Those with disabilities fare even worse.

“Globally, according to UNICEF, only 61 percent of boys and 53 percent of girls finish school,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “These numbers drop significantly among disabled youth — to 51 percent and 42 percent, respectively. This is why Salesian missionaries are working to ensure that educational access and workforce development opportunities are available to every young person in Spain, no matter their situation.”

To this end, the Pinardi Federation has forged a collaboration with “Project Pro” — an initiative sponsored by the philanthropic arm of one of Spain’s largest media conglomerates, Atresmedia. Launched in 2010, Project Pro is the first specialized training initiative for people with visual impairment. It is designed specifically to topple social barriers to employment, prepare students for work in the media, and facilitate their professional integration.

While attending audiovisual and media classes, students also learn other necessary skills which include time management, teamwork, communication and negotiation. They also participate in pre-employment workshops, which arm these students with the resources and motivation to conduct a successful job search. At the conclusion of their coursework, students must complete a two-month work placement in their field of choice.

Through this program, students may now pursue internships. Additionally, they have access to professional mentoring services. Once placed in a real-world office environment, they are able to apply what they have learned into daily practice, utilizing their new social media, communications and management skills.

“Youth with disabilities have the same desire and potential to achieve as their peers, when given the opportunity,” says Fr. Hyde. “The Pinardi Foundation is working to ensure equal educational access for differently-abled students so that they, too, may lead fulfilling lives and contribute to the social, cultural and economic vitality of their communities.”

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