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Leader of the Opposition, Bishop Joseph Atherley.

Entrepreneurship thrust needed

Leader of the Opposition Bishop Joseph Atherley says it is important to instil in our youth a drive for entrepreneurship and to develop a cultural of entrepreneurship in this country.

His comments came on Tuesday evening during the debate on the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure 2020/21, as the budget of the Ministry of Youth and Community Empowerment was being discussed.

Bishop Atherley said it is vital that young people be taught that they do not have to become employees, but can in fact become employers. In that vein, the Opposition Leader said Barbados must have a new class of employers that are enduring, he made the point while noting that in the past, black entrepreneurs have been “fairly transient and non-enduring”. Reflecting on such, he asked for an update on the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme (YES) and whether it is meetings its goals.

In response, Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment, Adrian Forde said that out of the 4 000 persons who leave school annually, 1460 have a burning desire to be entrepreneurs and to create their own market space. He added that the 200 persons who participated so far in the Building Blocks Programme were also exposed to a YES training module, getting insight into things such as accounts and marketing to assist them in sustaining their businesses.

Adding to his comments, Permanent Secretary Yolande Howard, speaking more on the work of YES, indicated that in the current financial year they have stimulated a number of new venture creations, assisted with the creation of around seven new businesses, expanded over five businesses, formalised over six businesses and have seen more than ten new jobs generated.

“We’ve had approximately 40 jobs retained by persons who are involved in entrepreneurial activities. We provided business counselling to over 115 new and existing clients. We’ve delivered business solutions to over 84 young budding entrepreneurs and a number of businesses, that number I don’t have, but a number of businesses have applied for technical assistance, including advertising, legal services, procurement of equipment [and] business development because they need assistance in that area,” the PS stated.

Howard said they have also assisted those persons in marketing their businesses in respect of programmes like BMEX, Girlfriends Expo and the expo that YES co-ordinates, which provides them with opportunities to let persons know what good and services they have to offer.

“One of the things I think we need to stress on, is while YES has been conducting a number of programmes with a very small staff, I may add, we recognise though that we do have to get back into the schools. There was a YES Juniors Programme that was being conducted under YES for a number of years, with decreasing budgets over the years there was not a very strong focus on YES Juniors, but we have decided that for the next financial year we are going back into the schools,” she revealed.

According to the PS, a number of schools have approached YES expressing a willingness to be involved in that programme. She said the aim will be to help students understand that there are various options for them to pursue.

Reflecting also on the Building Blocks Project, she said that while the first phase of the project focused on four communities, it is intended in the second phase to target eight communities. She said they are in the process of consulting with relevant partners to identified sites, hopefully owned by the State, that can be utilised and then help them identify the areas of business that they can get into and excel.

“A big part of the preparation for those persons to start those businesses, will be to have the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme’s staff train them and help to develop them. We recognise that it just can’t be a one-off event, we have to work with them over a period of time to get them to that point where they can then be sustainable and be able to run their businesses on their own,” she added. (JRT)

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