|Stephen Lashley, Minister of Youth, addresses the audience at the launch of the "Endless Possibilities – A Job Attachment and Mentorship Programme", yesterday, at the Savannah Hotel. (C.Pitt/BGIS)
This island’s Minister of Youth, Stephen Lashley, says there is a need to "take some action" as it relates to youth crime.
Speaking last evening at the launch of Endless Possibilities – A Job Attachment and Mentorship Programme at the Savannah Hotel, he admitted that the "vexing problem" of youth crime was not a new phenomenon, but noted it had been discussed in the 2004 report from the National Commission on Law and Order.
Mr. Lashley told his audience: "Whether the action we take is perceived by others as too small a step, we need to let it be known we are taking steps in the right direction, recognising that we can only take many more steps and become like the Obadele Thompsons, the Usain Bolts and the Andrea Blacketts of this world only if all of us take that one step together.
"The Barbados that many of us desire and wish to leave for our children and future generations is not one of utopia, based on idealism, but can be attained once we join together, both the public and private sectors, to counteract any negatives."
According to him, this new five-month programme, which will cater to 35 persons between the ages of 16 and 24, was one such step in the right direction. Stressing it was not conceptualised to compete with existing programmes, he pointed out that it was developed to ensure more young people had another access point to the job market.
Acknowledging that Barbadians had overcome many challenges and had several accomplishments which enabled them to maintain a comparative advantage with many of the world’s nations, he expressed the view that citizens could not be satisfied to merely exist on past attainments.
"There is still cause for alarm as every day, through the various mediums of reporting, we hear of another heinous crime, incidents of bullying permeating our school?? environment, seemingly lawless acts and cases of domestic abuse; all occurring at a time of the world’s greatest economic recession.
"This is having a negative impact on our family, schools and particularly those most vulnerable – our children. We are also witnessing an erosion of our social fabric that once knitted us together as communities where people looked out for each other," Mr. Lashley lamented.
He also expressed regret that some people did not even know the names of their neighbours.
The Minister said thousands of teenagers between the ages of 16 and 18 leave school every year, some opting to further their studies, while others go in search of employment. He asked what happens to those who were unable to secure a place at an educational institution or a job.
"It is these young persons who become unattached. ??They are vulnerable and can be lured into all types of deviant activity and behaviour. We must stop this trend now before it is too late," he underscored.
Mr. Lashley said young people had repeatedly called for employment and skills training opportunities and he told the business people that by being part of the Endless Possibilities Programme, they were investing in the future of the nation and safeguarding the viability of their businesses.
"Our young people are speaking clearly and we the adults, the parents and the leaders should continue to engage them in discussion and seek, wherever possible, to create an environment for them to fully participate in the process of change," he suggested.
He maintained that the new programme would not be a panacea, but would offer the vulnerable, unattached person a chance to create limitless opportunities and provide the employer with an employee who had been properly trained for the workplace. The young people will also be assigned trained counsellors who will provide the necessary psycho-social support during the Job Attachment and Mentorship period.
The one-month orientation phase of the programme starts today, to be followed by a three-month job attachment and mentorship segment. The Ministry of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth will give the participants a weekly stipend and it is hoped that they will find permanent employment with the companies on completion of the programme.