Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, says it is essential for young people to understand the foundations of literacy and numeracy, if they are going to do well in business.
The Minister was addressing the Junior Achievement Company of Entrepreneurs (JACE) Annual General Meeting, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, on January 23.
“Too many of our young people in schools, despite the very expensive investment of every tax payer, and of their families and themselves, are failing to recognise that competence in English is essential to success. There are no shortcuts to it. We love our language and we know how to use it, but the English language is the language of commerce, whether at Coronation Market or on the 11th floor of the Bank of Nova Scotia,” Mr. Thwaites said.
He noted that numeracy was of equal importance, pointing out that “your corner is dark if you have not achieved the basic levels of literacy and numeracy at the right time.”
Commending the Junior Achievers from 41 schools across the island, the Minister said the nation needs to recognize that “the jobs of the 21st Century are not going to be the gift of any large corporation for the most part, but are going to be created by individuals like yourselves who have a spark and a creative element and who make the best of what we have.”
“I laud the Junior Achievement movement. I hope that it will grow and extend into all of our primary schools and our high schools. I wish you well and hope that the spirit of entrepreneurship which you have learned and which you now display in all that you bring today and elsewhere, will prove infectious for all of Jamaica,” he said.
The JACE engages high school youth across Jamaica in real life business experiences, by having them start a business and create and sell the products.
For his part, Junior Achievement Board Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Scotiabank, Bruce Bowen, spoke of the relevance of the Junior Achievement programme to Jamaica, noting that it is the young entrepreneurs who will have to provide the necessary leadership to take Jamaica out of its economic quagmire in the future.
“The solution to getting Jamaica to where it needs to be lies in you, because you are the future. You are the people who over the next 20 to 25 years, whether it be in business, whether it be in politics, labour union movements, whether it’s in other public or civil society, are going to drive the direction that Jamaica goes and are going to be the ones to determine whether that path is followed successfully,” he told the young people.
Mr. Bowen further added that the youngsters can take away lessons in leadership and entrepreneurship from the Junior Achievement programme, which will help them going forward.
Also addressing the youngsters were Mission Director for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Denise Herbol, whose organsiation has sponsored the Jamaica Junior Achievement movement since its inception three years ago; and Chief Financial Officer of Citi Jamaica (formerly Citibank), Denis Gray, who delivered the keynote address.
Other sponsors included JN Fund Managers Ltd., CIBC, Caribbean Broilers, Flow, GraceKennedy Group, KPMG, Rise Life Management, Microsoft, RBC, Rotary Club of Mandeville, Sagicor, Ernst and Young and General Electric, among others.
The sponsors assist the school groups with seed money to start their companies and provide mentors as they empower the youngsters.