Stephen Lashley, Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth. (FP)

This island’s private sector has been called on to support the Barbados Youth Service (BYS) programme, especially in these recessionary times.

While addressing the BYS graduation last Saturday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, said the current economic recession had affected the "critical" work experiment component of the programme and organisations that had placed trainees in the past, had now indicated they were unable to do so.

Mr. Lashley stated: "Your support by receiving trainees of the Barbados Youth Service will ultimately redound to your benefit, since these same trainees may return to your businesses even better equipped to assist you in the attainment of your goals."

He noted that the partnerships forged with public sector agencies had proved successful and they had remained committed to assisting the BYS with the placement of trainees within their structures.

Describing the programme as a success, the Minister pointed out that it had contributed to young people gaining employment and furthering their education here and abroad. "This success has been a collaborative effort which emphasises a team approach that allows for the development of longstanding relationships between the public and private sectors and the commitment of competent and creative staff," he stated.

In a wide-ranging address, he expressed the view that the BYS needed to evolve into a full-fledged National Youth Service (NYS) to better respond to the changing dynamics of society. He disclosed that as the officials planned for the transition to the NYS, "the Ministry is currently looking to decentralise some elements of the current youth service in order to respond to specific needs of young people within their communities. I anxiously await the initial proposals in this regard," he said.

The BYS started in 1991 at the Grazettes Community Centre and Mr. Lashley surmised that it had been steadily increasing and improving its programmes to meet the various needs of trainees. "Indeed, over the years, there has been a growth, not only in the number, but also in the quality of the applicants.

"Although there have been challenges since the programme moved from its Harrison’s Point [St. Lucy] location in 2005, the staff continues to strive to facilitate an intake each year. This attests to their commitment towards youth development," he observed.

In light of the rise in drug abuse, anti-social behaviours and changing socio-economic conditions of young people here, the Minister said the BYS needed to be proactive and flexible in fostering an awareness campaign to increase exposure of its programme, as well as strengthen ties with local communities.

The one-year programme, which attracts males and females between the ages of 16 and 22, usually starts in October. Trainees must complete a three-month residential phase, followed by a day-release component, during which time they receive training in skills development, work orientation, as well as public and private sector job attachments. They also engage in academics, sports, cultural development, community service and group and individual counselling.


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