Minister of??Family, Stephen Lashley, making a presentation to??the outstanding student, Nicholas Johnson,?? while the Chief Executive Officer of the Small BUsiness Association, Lynette Holder, looks on. (M. Cadogan)

A Government official wants young people in Barbados to become innovators and develop technologies that will satisfy a growing world demand.

Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, made the call on Saturday during the graduation ceremony at Savannah Hotel for Endless Possibilities – A Job Attachment and Mentorship Programme, developed by his Ministry.

Mr. Lashley told the gathering: "It is only through this kind of creative innovation that we will create sustainable development. One such innovation must be in the area of digital communication – the next generation of the mobile phone and entertainment using digital technologies."

Twenty-one persons graduated from the five-month pilot project and the Minister disclosed that 14 of them had found long-term employment with some of the 22 organisations they were attached to.

"Furthermore, two of the young persons have entered the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme’s Entrepreneurship Development Programme…with a dream of one day becoming operators of their own businesses. One of the participants has secured a place at the Barbados Community College to pursue an Associate Degree in either Hospitality Studies or in dance. In addition, the Small Business Association has offered, through one of its affiliates, spaces to three of the female participants to work with an offshore company in the area of production [and] assembling cell phones," he stated.

Mr. Lashley further disclosed that phase two of the programme would be started in June this year for 35 young people. He pointed out, however, that the selection process would be broadened to include unemployed youth who successfully completed the Caribbean Examinations Council’s exams, technical and vocational examinations and degree programmes. "We believe that if these persons are unable to secure employment they are also likely to become at risk to various anti-social elements," he suggested.

He added that his Ministry would commence discussions with the Barbados Vocational Training Board to secure places in the Apprenticeship programme to allow graduates of Endless Possibilities an opportunity to acquire more in-depth skills and qualifications.

Endless Possibilities was conceptualised as a strategy to challenge disengaged youth between the ages of 16 and 24 to get involved in productive activity and according to the Minister, it had turned around their lives and aspirations.

Mr. Lashley stressed that it showed what could be achieved when all involved work together to solve any challenges. "It represents a decisive step by the Government to tackle unemployment among our youth… It also suggests that the responsibility to our youth in creating avenues for employment is not Government’s alone, but is a shared responsibility involving the private sector and civil society as well," he added.

He commended the business people, including the Small Business Association, for offering the young people the work attachment and urged them to tell their colleagues about the initiative so more of them would get involved.

The Minister promised that the Ministry would work with the graduates for a further three months to ensure they were equipped with the tools and attitudes that would assist them throughout their lives.


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