Letters & Opinion

The Youth Economy: A Developmental Focus for our Young People

Sylvestre Phillip M.B.E
By Sylvestre Phillip M.B.E

THE government of St. Lucia is currently preparing to implement a Youth Economy Programme. The Prime Minister Hon. Philip J. Pierre has offered the Youth Economy as a development focus for many young people in our country.

I have no doubt in my mind that the Youth Economy Programme will provide the impetus for the hope, aspirations and economic opportunities for many of the youthful population of St. Lucia.

I am also confident that the programme would harness the knowledge and skills of our young people and create the right atmosphere for gainful employment.

But what exactly is a youth economy? It is an economy that targets to reduce or remove the many barriers between the youth expectations, hopes and the reality of their situation.

We should never underestimate the Youth Economy Programme. The programme will do the following: (a) Remove the many constraints to employment. (b) Advance the future of young people. (c) Will support young people who are jobless and actively seeking work, and available to take a job.

The impact of COVID-19 on employment generally, and employment for young people is greater than we see with the naked eyes.

Demographic trends suggest that our world is younger now more than ever before. We don’t have very far to go to understand that. St. Lucia has a population of approximately one hundred and seventy-five thousand people (175,000). And seventy-two percent of the population is made up of young people between the ages of 0-35 years,

Indeed, that has given the government good enough reason to focus on youth employment. The youth economy will provide employment, entrepreneurship and other income generating opportunities for them. Additionally, young people will provide opportunities for other young people. It will have a domino effect on wider economy.

A youth economy programme will provide young people with a purpose and a sense of status and progress in their communities. They would now be able to enter the labour force. The programme will seek to empower young people with a platform, inspiration and the tools for them to design solutions to the most critical issues faced by humanity.

The Prime Minister has indicated that a separate Ministry will be introduced to handle the Youth Economy programme. And he is correct about that! A youth Economy Programme is a very broad area to deal with.

The Youth Economy has serious implications for education. School Agricultural programme could be given the prominence that it deserves. The young entrepreneurs would then be able to feed the nation and provide fresh, healthy foods. We will then be able to truly eat local. But the young people would be able to earn money to take care of themselves and members of their immediate or extended families. This surely create an impact on our society.

The Prime Minister is an economist, and I am sure he knows where he is going with the concept of a Youth Economy together with his team of government ministers.

I have spoken to education in Agriculture. But there are other areas as well. Many young people lack business and technical skills that are critical for obtaining or creating productive employment. I am sure that training will be built into the approach to youth economic development.

The young people would also need the soft skills to enable them to pursue their economic goals. Some of those skills are: Time Management, communication, teamwork, creativity, problem-solving, work ethics to name a few.

The youth economy is a serious commitment by the government to the young people of our nation who are poised to participate and make good on this wonderful opportunity which would stir young people to action.

In a few months’ time we should see a movement towards the establishment of the Youth Economy Programme. And we expect much heightened anticipation from the many young people of our nation.

An important component of the Youth Economy Programme is funding of the numerous projects which would emerge. The Prime Minister who holds the portfolio of the Youth Economy has promised funding in the form of grants and loans which will enable young people to implement their projects which in the medium to long term would break the cycle of poverty in our country.

I predict that the Youth Economy Programme will be the miracle programme which would bring about prosperity to our young people and to St. Lucia as a whole and so we look forward with excitement to the official launching of the programme.

In conclusion, I anticipate that through the Youth Economy programme young people across St. Lucia would be able to build self-confidence, obtain critical business skills, create local markets, grasp opportunities and pursue meaning livelihoods and entrepreneurship.

Look out for the Open School Next week in the Voice of St, Lucia.

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