KINGSTON — State Minister for Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Michael Stern, has welcomed the 'I am the Change' programme stating that it will help to develop an entrepreneurial culture among the nation’s youth.
The initiative, which was launched on Wednesday, April 20 at the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) offices in New Kingston, is aimed at empowering and preparing selected secondary level students to enter the workforce as initiators of their own businesses.
Mr. Stern said that the programme can make a significant impact in facilitating the growth and development of new and existing micro, small, and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
He noted that entrepreneurship is critical to the development and well-being of the society as entrepreneurs are job creators and innovators, who, by introducing competition, contribute indirectly to the country’s productivity,” he noted.
It is for this reason, he said, that the Government has been placing increased focus on nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit of individuals, with 17 entrepreneurial centres established over the past three years, to guide young business initiators.
In addition, persons have received assistance with business start-up, through the provision of space for rent and the facilitation of equipment to carry out various ventures.
Special Advisor to the Minister of Education, Ruel Reid, also endorsed the initiative as a key ingredient for the transformation of the education system to achieve Vision 2030, Jamaica’s National Development Plan.
He said that the education of the future must engender technical and career education that incorporates entrepreneurship.
“No matter how many lawyers and doctors we have, it is entrepreneurs who are constantly innovating and expanding business, producing goods and services that will enable sustainable economic development,” he said.
To this end, he said that the Education Ministry is now fusing career education into the curriculum, further pointing to the Ministry’s Career Advancement Programme (CAP), which not only seeks to raise the academic performance levels of students, but also prepares them for the world of work.
The ‘I am the Change’ programme, is a 16-month long initiative conceptualised by Managing Director of The Business Lab Limited, Kimala Bennett. In instituting this programme, Ms. Bennett said she set out to inspire, educate and give young persons the tools required to engage in successful entrepreneurial activities.
Also an entrepreneur, Ms. Bennett is the creator of The Business Lab, which is a support organisation for SMEs.
Apart from producing young Jamaicans, who are prepared to enter the labour force and positively impact Jamaica’s economy, the programme also seeks to achieve Jamaica’s 2030 Vision by transforming potential job-seekers into potential job creators.
The ‘I am the Change’ initiative, targets the six upgraded high schools in rural Jamaica, that fall under the Mutual Building Societies Foundation’s (MBSF) Centres of Excellence programme, which supports the Government’s efforts to transform the education system, by working to improve student achievement, teacher quality, and the organisational efficiency of the selected schools through the provision of technical assistance and financial resources.
The targeted schools are Mile Gully and Porus High Schools in Manchester, Seaforth High in St. Thomas, McGrath High in St. Catherine, Godfrey Stewart High in Westmoreland, and Green Pond High in St. James.
The MBSF was formed through a joint venture between the Jamaica National Building Society and the Victoria Mutual Building Society, tasked with implementing social developmental projects which serve as models for effective partnerships that lead to sustainable national development.
To kick off the “I am the Change’ programme, 90 students and 13 teachers from the selected schools will take part in a four-day camp, starting April 26, geared at developing the entrepreneurial skills of the participants.
In addition, 4,000 students are to be taught entrepreneurial skills and are expected to obtain at least level three mastery of entrepreneurism by the end of the programme. Guided by their teachers, the students will then establish and lead business clubs in each school, to influence their colleagues to get involved in entrepreneurial activities.
The students will also be charged with creating links with at least 12 community-based businesses that they will assist to develop. Additionally, 60 teachers will be trained in identifying and facilitating the development of entrepreneurial traits in students.
As part of the initiative, 1,000 parents will also be taught entrepreneurial skills and encouraged to nurture and stimulate entrepreneurial practices of their children.
The implementation and progress of the programme will be carefully monitored and guided by The Business Lab. It is being funded by the MSBF, The Business Lab and Digicel Foundation.
By ALECIA SMITH, JIS Reporter