In a matter of days, Government will begin to reconstruct negatively perceived street corners, known as blocks, as its highly touted ‘Building Blocks’ programme begins.
Minister of Youth and Constituency Empowerment Adrian Forde told reporters that as the voices of hundreds of neglected youth were being ignored, they were being pushed toward ‘block culture’. He added that 30 per cent of youth between the age of 18 and 35 are currently unemployed leaving them desperately in need of the “tools of empowerment”.
After nine months of planning, Government intends to launch the first phase of the three-million dollar programme at the Bonnets Community Centre in Brittons Hill.
Forde said: “They say it takes nine months to get a baby, so we in the ministry are proud parents, because the birth of the project will start next week Monday.
“Those non-idyllic structures that some community members fear to traverse in their daily routines, we are going to make into idyllic business centres.”
The minister was speaking to the media at the Courtyard Marriott in Hastings after an awards ceremony for another youth initiative, the Get Into Hospitality event.
Forde said ministry officials visited every “nook and cranny” to speak with young people on the blocks. He revealed that 70 per cent of youth who lime on blocks want to be entrepreneurs.
The youth minister said he visited at least one block in all 30 constituencies and was hoping to produce ‘block-preneurs’- a term which he uses to describe youth who set up businesses on the block.
He said: “They want to have their own businesses. They want to have a tangible stake in what happens in this country and so we as a government recognise that the moral test is how we treat to our most vulnerable.
“What we said is that we want to hear what our young people want to do. So we collected all of the data and decided to commission action based on the information collected.”
The initiative is being rolled out in the midst of a particularly violent year in which over a dozen mostly young people were murdered in the first two months.
Less than a week ago, Forde addressed the opening of the Chesterfield Brewster Youth Empowerment Center in Silver Hill Christ Church, which is to be used as a place of recreation, sport, training and entrepreneurship.
For this most recent project, the ministry has collaborated with the Ministry of Housing and Lands and Town and Country Development Planning Office.
Youth are to gain skills in business, entrepreneurship, bookkeeping, barbering and agriculture as viable alternatives to crime, the minister said, adding: “As much as we put laws in place and beg the young people to put down those destructive weapons, we have to provide alternatives, because the question they will ask is: ‘when I put down those guns, stop robbing or selling drugs, what will be the alternative?
“Gone are the days when Government is going to take three million dollars and spend catering for a summer camp programme. The Prime Minister is saying that she is going to take this same three million dollars and build up our young people and provide a safe and productive space for them.”