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If all goes according to plan, the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme (YES) could soon have satellite sites in strategic locations across the island and offer its services online to young people across the Caribbean.
This disclosure was made on Wednesday by Minister of Youth, Sport and Community Development Charles Griffith as Chief Executive Officer of the Pinelands Creative Workshop (PCW) Sophia Greaves-Broome called for a “healthy entrepreneurship ecosystem” through which young entrepreneurs can drive social and economic development.
They were speaking during the Youth Symposium at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre as the Small Business Association (SBA) continued its celebrations for Small Business Week 2022 under the theme Exploring the Digital Frontier – The Next Business Revolution.
Griffith said in addition to setting up sites across Barbados to ensure ease of access to YES, they were exploring the possibility of having the programme available across the Caribbean by January 2023.
“I have asked that we decentralise the programme where we can take our training programme through satellite locations across the country because it is required, it is necessary. The fact that persons are unemployed and to ask them to pay four bus fares to come to Sky Mall [Ministry headquarters] to engage in training is really, in a sense, not on,” he said.
“If we can have these satellite locations across the country, then I think it is something that is good for our young people because they get to be at that particular location to hear what it is that we have to offer.”
The Youth Minister added: “Hopefully, next year we will be having the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme programme going through the region where we will allow those young persons from within the Caribbean who are looking to get involved in entrepreneurship, in starting their business, to be able to access our training programme online . . . . There is scope for us to offer our programme within the region and maybe beyond.”
Pointing out that training is critical to the development of skills for operating a business, Griffith said he has already requested that every training programme being offered through his ministry be certified.
He said officials of YES were “in active discussions with the University of the West Indies to ensure that that particular training programme is now certified as well”.
YES, which was introduced in 2015, is aimed at promoting youth empowerment and development through the establishment of viable and sustainable micro and small businesses.
Griffith said while the Government would continue to provide the necessary environment for businesses to thrive, it was up to entrepreneurs to make connections, form partnerships with each other, and penetrate new markets.
Addressing the audience of young people drawn from the SBA membership and the PCW, he noted that there are about 55 000 young people in Barbados and they had identified one of their main concerns as unemployment.
“At my ministry, the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme is providing opportunities for young persons who are interested in becoming self-employed, for those young persons who see entrepreneurship as a viable option. Government cannot find employment for half of those 55 000 people. While it is true that a chunk of them will be going into studies, the reality is, entrepreneurship is one of the paths that we are pushing,” Minister Griffith said.
According to the latest unemployment data for the period April to June 2022, the overall unemployment rate was 9.3 per cent, which meant that some 13 000 people were out of work and actively looking. It was estimated that just over 10 000 people between the ages of 15 and 44 were jobless during the period.
During her presentation, Greaves-Broome said there were still several environmental and societal pressures hindering youth entrepreneurship in Barbados. She said there was a need for both a top-down and bottom-up approach to building out the sector.
“If we truly believe that youth entrepreneurs are vital to social and economic development and that they are at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution, and that youth will be driving the advancement in innovation and technology, then it is imperative that a healthy entrepreneur ecosystem be created,” she said.
“One that encourages individuals to take the step and provides the necessary support, provides the necessary incentives to encourage persons to want to become entrepreneurs – not only financial but a mixed approach which can include recognition of the prestige, the opportunity to be part of something bigger such as tackling a social or environmental issue.
“A healthy entrepreneurship ecosystem has to be created and created through a supportive culture where there is access to training to build their capacity, education, infrastructure, sources of finance, and the relevant policies and regulations to allow for tangible real-time assistance,” Greaves-Broome added.
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