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Entrepreneurship, volunteerism and internship were the ongoing themes as young people from several volatile communities shared their vision of the Jamaica they want to live in and pleaded for support at a recently held youth forum in Kingston, Jamaica.
The youth forum incorporated the views of some of the young persons who received scholarships and benefitted from internships under the Poverty Reduction Programme (PRP), funded jointly by the Government of Jamaica and the European Union.
A total of three hundred young people have benefitted from the tertiary and vocational scholarships programme since its implementation in 2015.
Head of the European Union Delegation to Jamaica Ambassador Małgorzata Wasilewska, while highlighting some of the challenges facing young people stressed the importance of equal access for all.
“Not all of us are fortunate to be born into rich families or live in affluent communities. However, all of us have the same right to access the resources and services that will equip and empower us to become good citizens” She noted.
She highlighted ways in which the EU is supporting countries to address the problem of youth unemployment, especially in vulnerable communities. Since 2001 over 18,000 persons from the early childhood level upwards have benefitted from educational and employment support under the PRP, which is implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund.
"We have seen very good outcomes. The 2016 cohort of 98 tertiary scholarship awardees returned high levels of completion and advancement rates. Eighty-nine or 91 per cent completed the year of study and passed the required number of courses. The majority of them are employed and some have even gone on to pursue graduate studies. We are giving young people an opportunity, and it's delivering very high returns," said Wasilewska.
University student and PRP beneficiary Nicole Collins was grateful for and encouraged by the support received under the programme..
“It meant a lot to me because I realize that someone else believed in me and someone else saw the potential that I have and believed that I could actually achieve my goals by giving me a scholarship. It was really encouraging for me and I hope we continue to be the change in other people's lives in the same way the EU has done for me”.
The format of the forum encouraged a panel of government, private sector and creative entrepreneurs to listen to issues raised by the young people and share actionable tips on how they can move their ideas to reality.
Senator Damion Crawford, the Opposition Spokesperson on Youth, in encouraging entrepreneurship, urged the young people to remain focused in pursuit of their dreams despite the obstacles which sometimes include failed ventures. The key to overcoming these obstacles, he said, is having the motivation to continue and the desire to learn from the experiences.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, the Hon. Floyd Green commended the inclusive approach of the forum.
“I welcome the thrust of this programme and the focus of the Forum as too often projects are developed and implemented with the intended beneficiaries being primarily passive recipients rather than active participants. This sometimes robs the programmes of the rich perspectives that come from the real life experiences of those whom we want to help. We also know that our young people are brim full of innovative ideas and creativity and so are more than capable of bringing their own dynamic perspective to programmes, projects and policies” he said.
The PRP Youth forum which ran under the theme Bridging the Gap: Solutions for youth unemployment, featured a film in which young people shared their current realities and proposals for addressing youth unemployment. Forum Panellists who provided actionable tips included representatives from the Young Entrepreneurs Association, the Jamaica Business Development Centre, Small Business Association, Jamaica Youth Business Trust, the Jamaica Social Stock Exchange, JN Foundation digital entrepreneur Rushaine “Dutty Berry” Berry and entertainer Wayne Marshall.