Over 400 young people in rural and urban Jamaica are to benefit from a two-year US$1.25 million poverty reduction programme.
A project of the Government of Jamaica and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Youth Employment Project is being made possible by a grant from USAID, and will be implemented by the Scientific Research Council (SRC).
The project, which will be implemented in two parts – the Rural Youth Employment Project and the Urban Youth Employment Component, is expected to increase the ability of youth to access sustainable livelihood options.
It will target mainly youth in four rural parishes – Trelawny, St. Ann, Manchester and St. Thomas. A smaller urban component will be in Kingston, and will focus on violence prevention through providing alternative livelihood opportunities to youth-at-risk, primarily young men, in two target communities – Jones Town and Trench Town.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, Minh Pham (centre) and USAID Mission Director, Dr. Karen Hilliard (left), sign the agreement for a US$1.25 million grant to go towards the Youth Employment Project at a press briefing at UNDP headquarters in Kingston on Thursday (March 4). At right, Executive Director of the Scientific Research Council, Dr. Audia Barnett takes a last look at the document before signing.
UNDP Resident Representative, Minh Pham, said the project is a critical intervention, as Jamaica is at high risk for seeing an erosion of its progress in reducing poverty and achieving the standards of human development set out in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“The situation demands that all actors respond with urgency and this Rural Youth Poverty Reduction Project is one such response,” he said.
Mr. Pham said at least 60 per cent of the youths to be assisted by the programme will be males, who will receive entrepreneurial training in tandem with life skills training.
USAID Mission Director, Dr. Karen Hilliard said that the project is intended to help ameliorate the impact of the financial crisis on Jamaica’s poor and unemployed.
“Youth are targeted, because 26 per cent unemployment among youth 14-24 years old is more than twice the overall rate of 10.6 per cent. Moreover, while the national unemployment rate rose by less than a percentage point over the past year, youth unemployment rose by 2.2 per cent,” she noted.
She said that the trend is identical to what is happening in the U.S. labour market, as when the economy gets tight, youth are disproportionately affected.
Executive Director of the Scientific Research Council (SRC), Dr. Audia Barnett, stressed that while the project is being implemented by the SRC, it aims to demonstrate the merits of collaboration. Agencies such as the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), 4-H Clubs of Jamaica, and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) have already embraced it.
Dr. Barnett said the SRC welcomes opportunities that enable employment creation, especially for youngsters, through the strategic transfer of agro-processing technologies.