Youth unemployment took centre stage at a recently concluded regional meeting as policy makers, businesses, youth leaders and other stakeholders seek to address the issue.
With one-third of the region’s youth being unemployed, efforts are being made to improve the chances of young people gaining employment and becoming productive individuals in society.
That was the aim of the International Youth Foundation (IYE) organized forum which saw the participation of over 100 regional and international counterparts.
Discussions were held on both the challenges and opportunities facing the region’s youth in seeking employment and becoming fully integrated into the local economy and society, according to a release.
The programme was particularly focused on those struggling to find employment or who are in trouble with the law or just given up on their future. These youths were made aware of the opportunities available to them in order to lead productive and engaged lives, the release stated.
Among the speakers who addressed the function was Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony who stressed that the youth must be given “real choices to get out of poverty, to remain proud and dignified, to embrace empowerment, enfranchisement, entrepreneurship, and education; and to give back to their communities”.
In what was described as an impassioned plea, the prime minister also highlighted the need for high quality education and training which he believes are essential to “acquire the skills that are relevant not only to the labor market but also for social inclusion and active citizenship”.
He hopes that the information divulged at the meeting will be used to propel improvements for all.
Meanwhile, the IYF said it was pleased to be part of the regional wide-dialogue.
Peter Shiras, executive vice president of the foundation, said: “Every one of you here today – business leaders, government officials, youth leaders, NGOs – all play a critical role in empowering today’s young people so they can positively shape their lives and futures. Thank you for being here and for all you do to help young people realize their hopes for a better life.”
Participants included representatives from USAID, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Private sector, civil society and juvenile justice leaders from St. Lucia Antigua, Barbados, Dominica and Grenada were also among attendees.
“Throughout the two-day event, experts in the fields of youth development, juvenile justice, economic development, and vocational training explored social and economic barriers to employment – and learned about proven programmes and innovative tools to expand opportunities in those areas. The event offered unique opportunities for those at the forefront of these efforts to share their knowledge and expertise on wide range of youth-related topics,” the release said.
Funding for the meet came from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for the Caribbean Youth Empowerment Program (CYEP) that is managed by the IYF.
The CYEP was launched in 2008 and is aimed at equipping vulnerable youth across the region with the technical, vocational, and life skills needed to develop sustainable livelihoods.
Individuals in Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and Saint Lucia have received life and employment skills, entrepreneurship training, and job placement services through the initiative. To date, 1,749 young people have been engaged under the programme. For Phase I of the programme, 45 percent of the participants were either working or in school, the release said.