In an effort to address youth unemployment, the Ministry of Youth and Community Empowerment has launched the Drive and Work Programme which will equip over 45 males with skills to gain employment in the transportation sector.
Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment Adrian Forde launched the initiative at his ministry’s Sky Mall, Haggatt Hall, St Michael headquarters this evening.
From February 4 participants ages 18 to 30 will learn how to drive heavy-duty vehicles and acquire their heavy duty licences over a three-month period with the costs paid by the Ministry. They will also be exposed to personal development and life skills to enhance their employability and will receive one-month internships.
The Minister assured participants that employment in the transportation sector was “practically guaranteed” after they successfully completed the three-month programme. He revealed that the transportation industry was not oversaturated therefore it provided opportunities for successful employment.
However, the Minister of Youth expressed great concern about the alarming youth unemployment in the island, disclosing that 29 per cent of youth ages 15 to 30 were unemployed with percentile among school leavers higher.
“One of the things employers ask for is experience and as part of our mandate we are going to give young people that experience that employers always ask for,” said the Minister.
“Young people must be provided with education and training which provide utility and employability,” he added.
The Minister of Youth noted that comprehensive education and training for those entering the workforce were a priority. He disclosed that the participants would undergo customer service training, learn basic vehicle maintenance as well as conflict resolution and substance abuse prevention. Forde stressed that his ministry sought to provide solutions and held the participants throughout the programme.
Forde noted that the educational curriculum needed to be re-evaluated to reflect the society’s changing demand. He explained that youth were entering the workforce without core skills such as communication, numeracy, problem-solving and sociability.
“There is a need to desist from narrowly focusing on traditional academic disciplines and to expand our curriculum to include life and core skills to support the future labour force. The curriculum should reflect the demands of the labour market and the needs of the economy to ensure that all those who pass through secondary and tertiary education and training, graduate with employable skills. This would involve developing linkages between educational and training institutions and employers where they do not exist and strengthening existing linkages,” he emphasized.
The Minister of Youth explained that the 15 to 19 and 20 to 24 age groups recorded the highest unemployment rates throughout 1999 and 2004. He reiterated that youth unemployment was a “major issue” in Barbados as the unemployment rates in the 15 to 19 and 20 to 24 age groups were 31.6 per cent and 19.2 per cent respectively.
“In my view, the youth of Barbados need comprehensive information which can help them to identify opportunities that can translate into viable careers, particularly in occupational areas that are not saturated. In this regard, the education and training provided should endeavour to almost immediately translate into employment, “ he advised. (KK)