Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment Adrian Forde is aiming to slash the unemployment rate of school leavers in half by the end of 2019.
He spoke about that ambitious plan at the launch of the 10th edition of the Caribbean Youth Leadership Retreat (CYLR), held under the theme Issa Vibe: Youth On a Mission, at the Barbados Beach Club.
Speaking to a regional audience comprising participants from Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts and Nevis and Dominica, Forde noted that a 2011 tracer study found that 70 per cent of students leaving school were unable to gain employment. And he divulged that it was the desire of his Ministry to reduce that to 35 per cent by the end of next year.
Forde pointed to the blue economy, green economy and technology as vibrant sectors that could be further explored for employment opportunities. He reported that 50 per cent of those who participated in the tracer study identified entrepreneurship as their ideal choice and he stressed that his Ministry would be advocating for youth to pursue that path.
“There is no better opportunity than a person being able to work for themselves and make their own money.” Minister Forde said.
“You would hear our Prime Minister allude to the point that the devil finds work for idle hands. We are going to make sure that those hands are employed in a positive and productive and wholesome way,” he added.
Forde also disclosed that in the upcoming months, his Ministry will be launching several programmes to tackle youth crime, substance abuse and other anti-social behaviours.
His ‘Building Blocks’ initiative which aims to take back the blocks across Barbados and transform them into exciting, viable, community-driven small business centres is in its second phase—building and implementation, where individuals will be educated and will utilize the community centres to transform their business.
Forde emphasized that the youth were central to the sustainable development of the country and growth was dependent on their welfare.
“Focusing on the needs, capabilities and rights of young people is a crucial part of making these good, sustainable development choices and represents an investment in everyone’s future,” he said.
“Together, we have to ensure that the challenges faced by the youth are addressed by innovative and appropriate approaches to tackle key areas such as employment issues. I am therefore committed to providing structure needed to affect positive change and development for our youth. We recognize the importance of equipping our youth with the knowledge and guidance to acquire important life skills,” Forde added.