CARICOM Provides Entrepreneurship Training For Regional Youth

Greater Georgetown, Guyana – Job creation is one of the most challenging tasks facing Caribbean Governments today as the unemployment rate continues to climb steadily, especially among young people who make up roughly 64% of the Region’s population.

Youth unemployment is a global problem. The International Labour Organization says 70 million young people are actively – but unsuccessfully – looking for employment. They represent nearly 40% of the world’s total unemployed. Unemployment levels for the age cohort 18-29 are generally two to three times higher than for the more senior population.

In some Latin American and Caribbean countries, the unemployment rate is as high as five times the rate for adults over age 45. Caribbean-wide data indicate that Saint Lucia, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Jamaica, have the highest youth unemployment rates. And many of those young who are employed are occupying low-paying temporary positions with little or no job security.

A long term solution to this perennial problem is to re-engineer the education system, including the infrastructure, so that education not only becomes more accessible to all young persons but is also more relevant in addressing the diverse needs and support the varied aspirations and dreams of its students.

A short to medium term spin-off solution however, is to motivate young people to create their own employment and arguably employment for their peers particularly in the creative and technology industries.

The CARICOM Secretariat, while formulating appropriate regional policies to address the former, is also creating the necessary enabling environment for the latter. The secretariat has embarked on a series of Creativity for Employment and Business Opportunity (CEBO) entrepreneurship training for young people across the Caribbean region, starting with targeted Member States, including, Jamaica, Belize, Dominica, The Bahamas and St Kitts and Nevis.

The CEBO training forms part of a regional project developed by the CARICOM Secretariat, to engage, motivate and inspire entrepreneurial interest and action among youth 15 to 29 years old. It emphasises creativity and teamwork and is delivered through hands-on, interactive youth friendly methodologies.

Over a period of five days, participants set up and staff simulated companies, develop a basic business plan and create, market and sell products and services using seed money provided by the workshop organisers. At the end of the workshop companies prepare a profit and loss statement; analyse their mistakes and successes and share profits in accordance with criteria which they themselves develop. What is unique about this project is that it was developed by young people, facilitated by young people for young people.

Last week, the project was launched successfully in Jamaica, where just under thirty young people participated. At that training Jamaica’s Minister of Youth and Culture, the Honourable Lisa Hanna pledged her country’s commitment to ensuring that appropriate follow-up actions would be taken to sustain the project.

This week, with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Government of Japan and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Dr Heather Johnson CARICOM Secretariat Deputy Programme Manager, Youth Development and a team of trainers have taken the project to Belize where some 25 young people will again benefit from one week of intensive training.

Dr Johnson, says, the training will equip young people to better appreciate and understand the Caribbean Community as the setting in which they can realise their dreams and aspirations, as well as to access business development opportunities under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

The project also comes with a user friendly CEBO Manual which was developed by a broad based Regional Technical Working Group appointed by the CARICOM Secretariat. It is informed by the research findings of the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development, the Barbados Youth Business Trust’s (BYBT) At-Risk Entrepreneurial Youth Business Labs Training Manual and other regional and international materials.

Dr Johnson explains that the Manual, “fulfils commitments in the Declaration of Paramaribo on the Future of Youth in the Caribbean Community; and responds to recommendations in the reports of the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development and the “Second Chance – Reducing Risk and Vulnerability Among Youth” Pilot Project (2010).”

The CEBO Manual is accompanied by a Workshop Facilitation Manual (WFM), a step by step guide to the organisation, design, delivery and evaluation of the Training Manual; a PowerPoint content outline for facilitators, which also provides a visual element for participants; and a compendium of youth friendly ice breakers, energisers and experiential exercises.

It is this manual that young trainers – supported by mentors and seasoned business persons – will draw on to help 25 at risk youth from across Belize city “flesh out” their business ideas in the hope that they will be motivated to becoming young entrepreneurs.

In adding his blessings to the project, CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque notes, “without decent employment, young people will lose hope and migrate to another country or Region where they perceive the chances of fulfilling their dreams and aspirations to be greater.”

He acknowledges that while entrepreneurship will not solve the problem of unemployment, “it is a viable alternative that will propel the Community closer to the goal of economic resilience.”

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