Prime Minister Promises To Invest More In Youth Development But Says Spending Must Be Optimised

PR 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 two-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 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 T.A. Marryshow Community College. At present,126  trainees are benefitting from technical scholarships and are pursuing studies at various  institutions at home and abroad.