The word “blockpreneurs” officially entered the national lexicon today as a $3 million business startup training programme was launched to establish a culture of entrepreneurship on street corners where young, unemployed people pass time.
The Building Blocks programme was officially opened by Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment Adrian Forde at Bonnetts Resource Centre, Brittons Hill, St Michael.
Building Blocks is an eight-day training seminar which seeks to teach adults ages 18 to 40 to start their own businesses.
Forde said: “Today, I want to say the baby was born in terms of the Building Blocks Programme and the baby will learn to walk and it will become a success story for this Barbados. We recognised years ago that blocks are a part of the Barbadian dialogue and conversation [as] they have been in existence from the time that ‘Adam was a lad’ and they feel a sense of entitlement.”
He told the media: “[Blocks] are going to become ideal business centres. We are going to put kiosks on the blocks that are going to facilitate businesses whether it is a car wash, whether it is a service bay, whether it is going to be a barbershop.”
Noting that young women also frequent the blocks, Forde declared his ministry is “not going to be misogynist” and that the training programme will also be open to women.
The Youth Affairs Minister said: “We recognize that young women must feel a sense of entitlement as well and they must be a space [for them] so we are going to put a kiosk for cosmetics, nails, and acrylics, hairdressing-whatever the young ladies wish to do. We are going to [integrate] young ladies in our exercise.”
Forde, MP for Christ Church West Central, used the occasion to slam the former administration for providing interventions which did not cater to the block culture.
He said: “The test of any government is how it treats its most vulnerable. The youngsters on the block have been crying out for the last two decades and yet we had successive governments who have tried all forms of interventional measures but none had sought to redefine the meaning of the block- the culture, the life and [seek] to empower these young people in a positive way.”
Forde promised Government will curb the current spate of violence among young people through the programme in which blockpreneurs will now be trained in entrepreneurship, accounts, bookkeeping, life skills, psychology, and conflict resolution.
He added: “This course is to ensure that these blockpreneurs have the academic [qualifications] so that they can succeed and we are going to work with them on that journey and that is why this entrepreneurial part is so important where we are going to teach them business skills, entrepreneurship, accounts, bookkeeping, life skills, psychology [and] conflict resolution.”
The Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment said that in response to the requests of would-be blockpreneurs, Government had invested $3 million into the Building Blocks Programme to ensure young people of Barbados can fulfill their Barbadian dreams.
He declared: “The blockpreneurs that were crying out for help I am saying today I heard your voice, the government of the day heard your voice, the Prime Minister certainly did as she has committed $3 million to the project.
“We have $3 million to spend on our young people and I am saying to these young men and women on the block action will be commencing so that your voice can be heard, and your dream can be realised.”