The first 46 graduates from a Tui work initiative in the Dominican Republic are to be employed at a resort on the Caribbean island.

The youngsters have completed a rigorous training programme equipping them with the skills to work in the tourism industry and will now be employed at a Tui Blue Diamond Resort.

The Tui Academy, created a year ago, is a model developed by Tui Care Foundation and Plan International in partnership with the travel group’s Blue Diamond Resorts.

A total of 150 disadvantaged girls and boys will undertake a one-year vocational training course preparing them for work in the field of tourism over three years.

Youth unemployment in the Dominican Republic is at 35%, out of which 70% are women. The teenage pregnancy rate in the country at 21% is twice the worldwide average.

Students can choose to study housekeeping, bartending or as kitchen assistants.

As well as learning technical skills, the students receive life coaching in their personal development with a focus on gender empowerment.

Young mothers are supported with childcare for their children under the age of five while training.

Recruitment is now underway for the second group of students with new training sessions due to start next month.

Lucia, an 18-year-old graduate with a young son, said: “This project has created a pathway for me and each of my companions.

“Being a mother does not prevent us from moving forward, because we can succeed and be who we want to be.”

Tui Care Foundation programmes and operations executive director Elise Allart said: “We started this project in the Dominican Republic to help address the high youth unemployment, especially among young women.

“Many of these women are already mothers, some already have several children even though they are only 18 or 19 years old.”

Silvio Minier, programme manager of Plan International Dominican Republic, added: “The Tui Academy Dominican Republic aims to empower young people, especially women, from the poorest communities in La Altagracia Province by offering them access to job opportunities and motivating them to make informed decisions about their lives.”