Celebrating 20 years of creativity, innovation and talent, the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme (YES) commemorated this important milestone last night at the Sweetfield Manor, Brittons Hill St. Michael.
Speaking at the 20th anniversary awards ceremony, Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, commended YES for its contributions to the rapid growth of the entrepreneurship sector in Barbados.
“YES has been extremely instrumental in developing a suite of services and infrastructure for enterprise creation, to move young entrepreneurs from the survival stages to small scale economic activities,” said Lashley.
Reminding the entrepreneurs that they were largely responsible for the economic vitality of the country, Lashley said, “I believe that a country’s capacity for growth is highly reflected in the ways in which its people improve on the resource spaces that guide economic and social activity. Here in Barbados, entrepreneurship is a relatively stable and viable engine of development, enterprise creation especially among our young people is rapidly growing and is rapidly diversifying.
“Our young entrepreneurs are seriously and consciously taking their ideas and entrepreneurial endeavours into newer and exciting dimensions and the level of creativity and the level of innovation that they exhibit I must say is very highly commendable,” he added.
Noting that entrepreneurs were responsible for creating a revenue of over $16 million between the period April 2003 and March 2015, the minister said he expected more self-ownership in the next 20 years.
“I believe in the next 20 years of work of YES . . . must be dedicated to . . . the total transformation of the Barbados economy to become totally reliant to international financial upheaval. It must become a period of empowerment of our people and to transform our young people into owners and investors of their own wealth,” Lashley pointed out.
Minister Lashley argued that the issue of high levels of youth unemployment seen throughout the Caribbean must be tackled.
“I believe that is has gotten to the stage that urgent action is required. You the entrepreneurs who have been the beneficiaries of significant investment have got to devise mechanisms along with Government to respond to that urgent need, this issue of youth unemployment,” he said.
“We must work collectively, more diligently at fostering entrepreneurial awareness.”
Featured speaker, historian Dr Henderson Carter also raised concerns about the youth unemployment, saying “there remains a critical task for YES . . . it is in my mind, getting some of those boys on the block, off the block.
“We have to put our minds around this problem, to look at reversing this block culture, to look at going forward and setting our people on a path to prosperity,” stressed Carter.
He stated that organisations such as YES were responsible for reversing the “working culture” ethic that has been engrained in Barbadians for centuries.
“We were considered a working people, not an entrepreneurial people – YES is reversing that,” contested the senior lecturer at the University of West Indies.
Carter encouraged entrepreneurs to strive for business longevity, similar to that of local longstanding business, Goddard Enterprises Ltd.
Mentioning early Barbadian business men such as James Tudor, Carter argued “we have had glorious starts, but those businesses have not continued.
“Begin to talk about succession … begin to plan for it, begin to bring up the idea with your family…don’t wait until something goes wrong…and it’s too late. Start it now and put somebody in place so that in 2060, this business that you have created will still be on the Barbados landscape,” advised Carter.