OAS launches Youth Business Labs and Training For At-Risk Youth In St. Vincent and The Grenadines

ST. VINCENT – Launching two Organization of American States (OAS) youth projects in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday (Oct. 26) evening, Secretary General José Miguel Insulza highlighted the prospects of the POETA Youth and Business Labs Programs to “engage young people, governments and the business community in the process of creating economic and other opportunities for our youth.”

The Secretary General said the joint launch of the “Young Americas Business Trust (YABT) St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Chapter” and the “Trust for the Americas Youth-At-Risk Project (POETA)” represent tremendous opportunities for the Caribbean country’s young people to build a new future for everyone by creating opportunities to directly address problems of poverty, violence and inequality. The Secretary General later participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the POETA Youth-At-Risk Project, after which he was the guest of honor at a dinner by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.

Insulza launched the programs in the Vincentian capital Kingstown, alongside Prime Minister Gonsalves and a host of senior government officials, youth leaders and representatives of the international donor community and diplomatic corps, among others. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is the main donor to the POETA program, which gets technical assistance from Microsoft and CISCO.

Prime Minister Gonsalves, who also holds the portfolios of Minister of Finance, Economic Planning, National Security, Legal Affairs, Grenadines Affairs and Energy, welcomed the initiatives for their potential to help tackle challenges stemming from the new realities brought on by globalization. He said the new projects launched by the OAS in conjunction with the state-owned National Center for Technological Innovation will help to better prepare the young people for the competitive world.

As a background, he also outlined the considerable shift of the country’s economy from bananas as the main pillar of the economy—now only 2 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, from a high of 12 per cent—as tourism and international financial services become much more significant economic activities.

In highlighting the importance of the programs in addressing challenges stemming from lack of jobs and lack of education, Insulza praised the government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for the enthusiasm with which they have embraced the two initiatives he said seek to equip young people with “the skills needed to make them more marketable in today’s changing employment environment.”

The Secretary General further explained that the OAS-affiliated Trust for the Americas initiative provides disadvantaged persons in Latin America with education and training in advanced technology, growing from two training centers in Guatemala into a network of 49 centers in 11 countries. He said the unique partnership will provide IT training, job readiness training, and civic education to young people and the community at large.

Business labs by the YABT, another OAS program, help young people develop their entrepreneurial spirit and basic skills in starting a small business, through short intensive hands-on workshops as a strategy for governments and local organizations to create employment opportunities for young people in their communities.

Dr. Jerrol Thompson, the Minister of Telecommunication, Science, Technology and Industry, welcomed the guests that included members of parliament and top government officials, business and youth leaders as well as representatives of international organizations and the diplomatic community to the launch of the Business Labs and POETA programs.

Opening remarks were also offered by Ambassador Ellsworth John, Director for Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister; Hans Kohlsdorf, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Trust for the Americas; Roy Thomasson, Chief Executive Officer, Young Americas Business Trust; and Melene Glynn, OAS Country Representative in St. Vincent and the Grenadines offered closing remarks.

Prior to leaving St. Vincent and the Grenadines, on Saturday (Oct. 27) the Secretary General and his team attended the military parade marking the country’s 28th anniversary of independence, and held a press conference in which he explained the highlights of his official visit.

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