June 05, 2015
Warning that young people are no longer content “to be left behind” Dr. Daniel Johnson, Minister for Youth, Sports and Culture outlined the Bahamas Government’s ambitious plan to utilize $20 million in the upcoming fiscal budget for the development of employment and training projects designed to tackle the high level of youth unemployment.
He revealed this latest youth developmental policy initiative during his address at the United Nations General Assembly at the High-Level Event on the demographic dividend and Youth Employment on Monday morning (1st June).
“Young people across the world have emerged as a powerful and cataclysmic force for change from Main Street to Wall Street. Therefore it is incumbent upon us to create spaces for the cultivation of their unbridled imagination, and to learn from their dreams and aspirations on how to create a better now and a better future for generations to come,” Dr. Johnson said.
“We have a moral responsibility to level the playing field and to create conducive avenues for investments for the 1.2 billion adolescents and young people in the 15-24 age cohort who will be inheritors of the sustainable development agenda currently under debate in these very halls,” he said.
“Very shortly, they too will sit here as we do as leaders and policymakers. Let us prepare them for the challenges they will no doubt confront,” Dr. Johnson, the PLP Member of Parliament for the Carmichael Constituency told the UN.
Dr. Johnson’s delegation included Mr. Daron Turnquest, Director of Youth .The Minister highlighted several key initiatives that will specifically attack the problem of youth employment. Most notably, he outlined the establishment of a special program for young people with behavioral issues. This program will support the Government’s commitment to the complete care of our nation’s youth including those that may be “left behind.”
Secondly, an apprenticeship program will be launched in partnership with the private sector. Youth will participate in an incentivized program with a wage subsidy in an effort to gain critical job training skills.
In his speech, the Minister also highlighted the development of The Bahamas National Youth Policy which will support a coherent framework for enhanced youth development. He noted the numerous stakeholders that were involved in the process of crafting the policy including young people. The Development Plan will offer plans to address significant areas related to youth development including: Identity Development; Education; Technology; Employment; Social Enterprise; Sustainability; Justice and Safety; and Youth Democratic Inclusion Practices.
Dr. Johnson noted that this plan will be presented by him in an upcoming session of Parliament.
While referencing the issues that plague our nation’s youth including unemployment and criminal activity, Minister Johnson strongly articulated the government’s plan to move ahead on tackling these pressing issues. The Minister used his opportunity to invite international inter-governmental agencies to also partner with the government in providing needed resources that will support the nation’s youth. The Minister explained that the call to enhance youth development requires the creation of “spaces for the cultivation of their unbridled imagination….”Undoubtedly these bold new initiatives will help to deepen the nation’s response to youth in The Bahamas.
Dr. Johnson mentioned the following initiatives:-
Establishment of a special school for young persons with behaviourial issues and address issues that if left unattended may hamper their employability.
“This initiative reinforces the Government’s policy commitment that every child and young person counts and that none should be left behind,” he said.
Launch of an apprenticeship programme in partnership with the private sector and under which employers will be incentivized through wage subsidy, to employ young persons in positions that will afford them the opportunity to acquire vital, basic job skills.
“The programme will strive to enhance the employability of participating youth through practical on the job training and learning by doing,” the Minister said
Dr. Johnson said “with a youth population of nearly two thirds and a youth unemployment rate in excess of 30 per cent, youth development is an essential pillar in our small nation’s quest to create a better Bahamas for present and future generations.”
Further, he said the National Youth Policy will provide a framework for a number of ongoing youth business and education development programmes and initiatives such as:-
Youth Enterprise Programmes and Micro Credit Initiatives Creative Employment and Business Opportunity for Youth (CEBO) National Training Agency National Youth Leaders Training Programme.
Dr. Johnson reported to the High Level meeting that “coupled with employment challenges, we are facing critical social ills such as increased violence and crime among young men in the 18-35 years cohort who are both perpetrators and victims. We are also cognizant of burgeoning health issues such as HIV/AIDS and Non Communicable Diseases affecting a large percentage of our young people, as well as those at risk of infection.
He said the Government’s employment outreach initiatives, its $180 million investment over the next three years to affect the launch of the National Health Insurance Scheme and the near completion of the transition to University status of the College of the Bahamas “will foster improvement in the development of our human capital and the creation of a healthier and more educated, highly skilled and empowered workforce” said the Youth Minister.
Dr. Johnson warned that “all these initiatives will not generate much needed results if we do not create innovative and sustainable industries and technologies, provide access to land, financing, training, leadership and management skills and a diversified job market for young people.”
“National strategies must complement those at the global level,” he said.
Speaking directly to the UN initiative, Dr. Johnson said he was cognizant of the targets on youth employment in the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) and the call for the development and operationalization of a global strategy for youth employment.
“This is a start but such a strategy also calls for resources. The question is how do we provide the means and implementation – a term heard all too often in the course of the ongoing intergovernmental negotiations on the post 2015 development agenda and the financing for developmental processes – in order to affect the level of transformational change necessary to improve the lives of young people?”
He answered that “a reliable, accessible and adequate financing system for development in support of the efforts of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like The Bahamas is critical, as too often is the support of the United Nations system.”