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Jamaica’s youth have been charged to play a proactive role in nation building, to think globally and to collectively fight against crime and violence as the country seeks to effectively compete in a changing world.
These were issues discussed at the Jamaica Union of Tertiary Students (JUTS), National Youth Leaders Conference held yesterday (July 1) at the Jamaica Conference centre.
Addressing the conference, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture, Dr. Donald Rhodd, urged Jamaica’s youth to act with responsibility and realise their role as guardians of the nation. “Our youth must play a proactive role in the development of Jamaica,” he stressed.
The State Minister called on young people to empower themselves by seeking employment opportunities such as those provided by the National Summer Employment programme, which has been expanded to every parish. He noted that since the programme was launched, it had provided summer employment to more than 4,000 secondary and tertiary students.
In addition, Minister Rhodd pointed to the Jamaica Youth Business Trust, which encourages and supports young persons between the age of 18 to 20 years to not only establish, but also to build sustainable businesses. He cited examples of an 18-year-old girl who owned and managed a restaurant in New Kingston as well as a 23-year-old male who also owned and managed an expansive coffee farm in rural Jamaica.
Dr. Rhodd also revealed plans to enact an Affirmative Action law to address low youth employment. He explained that the Act would be similar to the Affirmative Action law that exists in the United States for minority groups.
The conference was attended by students from several secondary and tertiary institutions. Robert Gregory, Executive Director of the HEART/Trust NTA, encouraged the students to empower themselves by thinking globally when pursuing entrepreneurial ventures. “Think globally before you act locally and let your benchmark be the best in the world”. The HEART/Trust Director called for a change in the profile of the Jamaican workforce from a semi-skilled one to a certified and skilled workforce, which would include the youth.
He further encouraged young people to look at Jamaica and their communities as markets to which they must offer the best in entrepreneurial services and products. Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in charge crime, Mark Shields in his remarks called on Jamaicans to collectively tackle the problem of crime and violence. “We [the police] cannot do it forever. The collective effort of everyone is necessary,” he noted.
In respect to youth and crime, DCP Shields called on young persons to seek to obey all the laws of the land from very early in their lives and not selectively choose which laws to obey. “You have an individual responsibility to make Jamaica better,” he urged.
He further called on business and firms to employ and train young persons in order to empower and give them a purpose in life.
The JUTS comprises all the tertiary institutions that are a part of the government’s structure and was formed in 1972 as part of its democratisation plans within the education system. More than 15,000 students participate in its activities.