I am pleased to be part of another first for the BVI: this Apprenticeship Programme and its related Youth VI Website. I am delighted that this Government through the Ministry of Education and Culture, in collaboration with our business community is giving some eighty five young men and women the opportunity to earn a living.
Not only does this make them financially independent, it also boosts their confidence in this country they call home, and in themselves.
When the Minister first approached me about finding the financing for this programme I did not hesitate to say yes.
Why: for two reasons:
1) After all this is why we spend thousands of dollars to educate our young people - whether at the high school, college or university level - so that can earn a living and
2) I was familiar with this kind of programme. In fact it was while I was in Gibraltar a couple of years ago that I was introduced to a similar programme. I was pleased to learn at the time that more than 60% of the employers participating in their programme decided after year one that the employee would become part of their staff!
It could very well be the case here in the BVI as well!
You see it’s all about giving our young men and women a chance. Although this programme might be slightly different to the one introduced in Gibraltar the principle remains the same. I am therefore confident that this programme will enjoy even greater success than it does elsewhere.
Indeed when I hear employers turn down young people looking for work because they are lacking in experience I am reminded of the well known conundrum: how will a person get a job having no experience, and how will that person get experience without a job!
Well here we are together - Government and the business community working hand in hand to solve that conundrum.
Through this Apprenticeship programme we expect that youth unemployment will be reduced as more unemployed young people will improve their skills base and find fulfilling and permanent jobs.
The programme will also help to prepare our young men and women for working life, develop positive work habits, and understand the expectations of employers. Furthermore, through mentorship and working with skilled professionals, our young people will in turn develop their leadership abilities.
I appeal to you young people participating today to work hard, go to work early and stay late. Show enthusiasm for whatever you are called on to do and do it to the best of your ability.
Leave all the texting, face booking, catching up on the local news, blogging and the like until you get home or until the weekend.
Do not be afraid to make suggestions, to ask your supervisors for more work and so on. I am extremely grateful to the business community for agreeing to partner with Government in this venture.
I continue to be very proud of the BVI business community as you continue to be such excellent corporate citizens.
Like us in Government you are clearly committed to ensuring that we get as close as possible to a full employment situation which has been the norm in this Territory.
Full employment is one sure way of ensuring continued stability. It is one sure way of ensuring that our crime rate remains low. As I said earlier it is the sure way of making sure that the people of this country continue to feel proud of themselves and that they are making a contribution to the economy.
My Government understands that a strong economy is based on a skilled, national workforce, capable of meeting the many and varied demands of today.
But I am excited about this programme for another reason: This Apprenticeship Programme can help potential entrepreneurs to start new businesses. New businesses mean economic growth and the creation of further job opportunities.
Indeed, I know there will be many success stories shared as participants learn and become motivated to develop further.
I appeal to other businesses and industry stakeholders throughout the Territory to join this initiative and partner with the Ministry of Education and Culture to provide employment to young persons who meet the criteria for selection for a period of six (6) months.
Help us to give our young people the chance to become competitive in the local labour market and refine their professional skills.
I applaud Minister Walwyn and his team at the Ministry of Education and Culture for continuing to come up with creative and practical ways to support the Territory’s young people. This is a very important initiative that will be a long-term programme for the Ministry. Well done, Minister.
In fact I am so excited about this project and its impact on our young men and women that today I am pleased to announce that this Government will finance an additional 20 young people for this programme.
I am, by the same token, challenging other employers to
come forward to match this contribution thereby enabling more of our young people to start work. I leave it to you Minister Walwyn to work out the details.
You see ladies and Gentlemen, it is only through sustained youth development programmes such as this, we will continue to chart the map towards a better, more prosperous Virgin Islands for our people for generations to come.