Government is committed to providing more opportunities for young people to become productive citizens who will carry the country forward.
Speaking to members of the media during a fun day and educational tour with children drawn from his constituency, St. Peter, and that of his colleague from St. James North, Minister of Home Affairs, Edmund Hinkson, Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan, said, “We recognise as a Government that there has been a reduction in the number of young people being trained in Barbados, about 7,000 fewer than ten years ago. This is a cause for concern, as it says young people are not being facilitated in achieving their goals, which creates frustration that can manifest itself in deviant behaviour.”
He said Govenment had established a youth employment framework, which brought together his ministry as well as that of Youth Affairs and Community Empowerment, and apart from the Youth Advance Programme which will ultimately replace the Barbados Youth Service, they are also rolling out another venture called Job Start Plus.
“This will give young people between the ages of 16 and 24 one year of work experience,” Jordan explained. “We find companies like to hire people with prior work experience, because they are not always prepared to train new employees. Job Start Plus is designed to provide our youth with not only job skills but also citizenship skills such as emotional intelligence that will fashion them into attractive and competent employees or entrepreneurs if they decide to work for themselves.”
On that score, Jordan said from as early as next week, his ministry will be reaching out to artisans such as joiners, plumbers, masons, carpenters, electricians, mechanics, autobody repairmen and cosmetologists in an effort to get them on board. In his view, “People with these skills tend to be more resilient in economic downturns, and we have also found that the old skill of joinery is dying out, at a time when traditionally crafted furniture is in high demand worldwide once again.”
Apart from the artisans, the ministry will also meet with the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Small Business Association as it seeks to provide job placements.
The programme, which should start in earnest in January 2020, will cost some $5 million and the young people involved will be paid a stipend during their job attachments. Jordan said between Youth Advance and Job Start Plus, between 2,000 and 4,000 youth will receive training, and Youth Advance members can also benefit from Job Start Plus.
“We are considering having Youth Advance members join Job Start Plus in year two so that in the end they will have the 12 months of work experience. Also, Job Start Plus will be the umbrella for other programmes in the Ministry of Youth Affairs, so the budget will be there to train people in the job attachment period. We believe this investment is a small one considering what the output can be in terms of economic activity, productive citizens, and what we would have to spend to curb the deviant behaviour which frustration brings about,” Jordan concluded.