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Unleashing entrepreneurial spirit in youths
A report published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) earlier this year, titled Global Employment Trends For Youth 2013: A Generation At Risk highlighted the results of research conducted on youth interventions to address unemployment. This included a number of key lessons that could be used for the development of successful youth entrepreneurship programmes among which were the following:
• “Youth entrepreneurship is one of the most relevant interventions for combatting youth unemployment and has a high potential for employment creation”
• “Programmes should target specific groups that suffer from specific market barriers, such as women”
• “It might be more effective to offer packages with a broad range of services, rather than only providing managerial training or financial support”
• “Small programmes run by NGOs and private-sector institutes with smaller outreaches and more focused target groups tend to be more effective than larger programmes run by public institutions”
It would appear that Youth Business T&T (YBTT) is right on target with its novel approach to creating a new breed of entrepreneurs in this country. In January this year, the YBTT, under a contractual arrangement with the Citizen Security Programme (CSP), embarked on a programme to support residents of three communities in Cocorite in St James, Farm Road in St Joseph and Enterprise in Chaguanas who wanted to start their own businesses but needed guidance and support to achieve their goals.
Instead of inviting the entrepreneurs to come to them, as they have done for the past 13 years, YBTT went into the communities to meet residents on their home ground. Over a period of several months and with the support of the community action councils in each area, YBTT hosted weekly training programmes in life skills, personal financial planning and business plan preparation for residents in the 18-35 age group.
Under these arrangements the communities were able to strengthen the bonds that already existed as they participated in group discussions, sharing with one another their personal goals and plans to start their businesses. They were not dissuaded by having to attend classes outside of their area as these were held in venues identified by members of the community including a community centre, a church hall and a preschool.
More than 100 participants altogether benefitted from these training programmes tutored by experienced facilitators, and about 30 per cent of these decided to move to the next stage by developing their business plans. Those plans that were evaluated and deemed to be viable were afforded a package of support which included mentoring, financing and additional training.
At a recent graduation ceremony, participants of the programme were presented with their certificates of participation and notification of financial support for their new business ventures. This was an interesting forum that enabled the entrepreneurs from the three communities to interact with each other for the first time.
Several participants gave compelling testimonies on how their participation in the YBTT programme has had a positive impact on their decision to become self-employed by starting their own businesses. Each funded entrepreneur now has access to the support and advice of his/her experienced business mentor in the start up phase and beyond.
YBTT will continue to monitor the performance of these “young entrepreneurs,” as they are now called, who will also be able to access the support and resources of the global network, Youth Business International (YBI), of which YBTT is an accredited member.
YBTT is also gearing itself to take this entrepreneurship model into other communities throughout the country, one community at a time, and as far as possible in consultation with the community groups and NGOs already operating in those communities. While we acknowledge that entrepreneurship is not a cure-all for the many ills that plague our society, research has shown that it is very instrumental in reducing unemployment, especially in cases where these rates are high or where there is substantial underemployment.
Unemployment rates in T&T have been on a downward trend for the past few years, but unemployment in the 15-29 age group remains precipitously high at almost 50 per cent. For this reason it is imperative that we continue to explore any and all ways of generating sustainable employment. YBTT is of the view that our community-based approach, which aims to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit among the youths, would bear noticeable results in the not too distant future.
Gloria Rolingson is the general manager, Youth Business T&T.
E-mail: [email protected]
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