After 28 years, the “limited” Barbados Youth Service (BYS) is to be scrapped and replaced by the Barbados Youth ADVANCE CORPS, the Prime Minister has announced, saying it is to offer training in a wider range of life skills.
At $20 million, the new organisation’s budget is four times that of the youth service and is to help up to five times more the number of people the BYS currently assists, Mottley declared.
The CORPS is to be based on the grounds of the Paragon base of the Barbados Defence Force, where construction is currently taking place, she said.
Mottley said: “The Barbados Youth ADVANCE CORPS will subsume the limited Barbados Youth Service which only now takes in less than 200 people.
“But it is intended to take young people who have left school in the last two years and to take between 800 to 1,000 persons per year.”
The intake will be done in four tranches, with the first starting in September, then in October, January and February.
The recruits are to remain in the programme for two years while being exposed to a variety of training and career development in the areas of technology, agriculture, robotics and construction, following an assessment at which time they would be able to choose their area of preference.
The 16 to 23-year-olds are also to be trained in life skills including conflict resolution, communication, navigation and outdoor survival, physical training, financial management and budgeting, as well as arts and craft, drama and music, culinary arts and swimming.
Mottley added: “That two-year period will be a combination of learning, discipline, citizenship reinforcement and also the ability to participate in some form of work attachment, first job initiative, apprenticeship or mentorship depending on the individual.
“The benefits of this new programme would be that whereas the Barbados Youth Service was limited to one year and six months during the service day-to-day including a 12-week residential and then six months on a work attachment, this one will be a two year programme.”
The students are to be given a stipend of $600 per month, the Prime Minister said.
Describing the move as a “serious” one taken by the Cabinet this afternoon, Mottley told a post-Cabinet press briefing that the new organisation would take on the form of a civil defense CORPS, under which the cadets are expect to assist in national emergencies.
She said the main intention was to better prepare the island’s youth for the workforce, help them to develop life skills and keep them out of trouble.
“We have reached a point where we have literally to provide for our young people. Barbados is training more than 7,000 less when we look at the post secondary institutions that we have.”
The cost of running the new organisation is to quadruple from the current $5 million expected to be spent this year, but she said Government would ensure there is no pressure on the public purse.
Said Mottley: “The full cost of the programme, once it is fully operational, is likely to be in the vicinity of about $20 million, but we accept that for the rest of this financial year it is not going to be more than about $5.5 million.
“We are at the position where the Government is prepared to make the choices.
“We recognize that the full cost of this programme is unlikely to come to bear before the financial year 2021/2022 because as a two-year programme obviously we are staggering the intake because the first year’s intake will be.
“Our projection show that the growth that we expect to see in our economic performance generally as well as in our revenue and in our efficiencies that we are bringing out in our expenditure that it will give us the space to undertake this.”
Further defending the move, Mottley insisted that it was a choice that Government was taking to “build the future” for young people and to create a platform for growth and tackle crime and violence.
Adding that Government was “placing its bets on young people”, Mottley said they were expected to give back in various ways.
Staff are to be increased over time to adequately satisfy the demands including full-time and part-time specialists, the Prime Minister added.
She explained that the ADVANCE CORPS would be working closely with a number of ministries including Youth Affairs, Education, the Prime Ministers Office through the Ministry of National Security and the Barbados Defence Force.
Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment Adrian Forde said the changes should help to address the issue of youth unemployment and underemployment, adding that one of the challenges facing them was a lack of work experience.
Adding that the BYS was in need of a “rebranding” and “refreshing”, Forde said the Barbados Youth ADVANCE CORPS would solve that problem.
Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw said the new organisation would address a range of areas while ensuring that the young people could be issued with Caribbean Vocational Qualifications and City and Guild certification.
Bradshaw said: “We are at the point now where we are transforming education.
“This is going to give young people an additional opportunity to build on existing skills or explore opportunities for new skills to come to the fore.”