Prime Minister, Dr the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, who recently assumed the Youth Development portfolio, plans to invest more resources in empowering the nation’s youth.
However, at a meeting with senior officials in the Ministry of Youth Development on Tuesday, the Prime Minister warned that resources must be optimised and should not be wasted, particularly as the country continues to feel the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Mitchell said, “Government’s investment in youth development has been significant and I am prepared in the upcoming budget cycle to seek additional resources. However, the quantity of Government’s investment cannot be the only method by which we assess ourselves. We must examine ways to improve the effectiveness of the programmes as we seek to truly empower our young people.”
He added, “We need to develop a comprehensive strategy to chart the way forward. We have to be critical about where we are and determine how to improve our strengths and correct our weaknesses.”
Specifically referencing Government’s flagship youth initiative, the new IMANI Programme, Dr Mitchell said the supervision and assessment capacity must improve. He said, “The new IMANI Programme is more than the security of a Government stipend. We have to help our young people get into areas where they are most likely to succeed. By the end of a 2-year stint in the new IMANI Programme, we ought to know their general skillset and career interests. Supervisors have a key responsibility to determine the aptitude of trainees and help them along the path towards achieving their goals.”
The suggestion was made for trainees to be made more accountable and to undergo periodic evaluation and the Prime Minister readily agreed. He said, “When we recruit the next batch of trainees, it must be made very clear that things will change, therefore they should dispel what they have heard about the programme. It will not be business as usual. Government will help and empower but it will not spoon-feed people.”
The Prime Minister reiterated his commitment to pursuing radical change in the Ministry of Youth Development. He said, “I see this as part of my legacy – addressing and correcting the weakness of our youth programmes and ensuring that they better serve our young people. We have achieved many successes and I noted that a few of our Caricom neighbours have emulated elements of our programmes. However, I think we can do so much more. We must utilise and create opportunities to empower and transform the lives of our young people. It is not going to be easy but I am prepared to work with my colleague Minister, Honourable Kate Lewis and the very capable and committed team in the Ministry of Youth Development to make this happen. We owe it to the youth to help them realise their fullest potential.”
As part of the preparation for the overhaul of its programmes, the Ministry of Youth Development is currently engaged in a comprehensive assessment of all trainees. Ministry officials continue to brainstorm ideas as plans are made for a new strategic path.
The new IMANI Programme is intended to be a social development programme which seeks to mitigate the effects of poverty and the structural weaknesses of the labour markets. It targets persons between the ages of 18 and 35 who have little or no qualification or who come from a disadvantaged or vulnerable social situation. The programme also targets persons with some degree of academic or vocational preparation but who require additional skills to better prepare them for the world of work.
To date, more than 6,000 young Grenadians have benefitted from the IMANI Programme, with hundreds of them securing permanent placements in various Government departments and private businesses. Additionally, some trainees have used the programme as a gateway to educational advancement through the Scholarship Assistance Unit. Since 2018, 27 IMANI trainees have graduated from St George’s University and another 57 from the TA Marryshow Community College. At present,126 trainees are benefitting from technical scholarships and are pursuing studies at various institutions at home and abroad.