Some 10,000 low-income, vulnerable Jamaican young people are to be trained to fill in-demand occupations in the country under the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)-implemented New Opportunities for Employment (NEO) project, which was launched in Jamaica two Fridays ago at King’s House.
NEO is a broad partnership in which businesses, governments and civil society contribute resources, knowledge and skills to build the capacity of critical national youth training and service provider organisations and strengthen job placement entities. The region-wide programme, which began in 2012, seeks to improve the human capital quality and employability of one million vulnerable youth, aged 17 to 29, in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) over a 10-year period.
So far, the project has been initiated in Mexico, Dominican Republic, Panama, Colombia, Brazil, among others. Jamaica is the first English-speaking country, and the 11th overall to launch the programme.
Delivering remarks at the project launch, Therese Turner-Jones, IDB representative for Jamaica and General Manager for the IDB’s Caribbean Country Department, uncovered the raw, unsavoury details of youth unemployment.
“(The 15 – 29 age group constitutes 40 per cent of the working population. Yet, one in five youth is neither working nor studying; the youth unemployment rate is two to three times the adult unemployment rate; and, of those who are working, 60 per cent are in informal jobs. In addition, 50 per cent of those who do complete high school lack the basic competencies that jobs require,” Turner-Jones said.
The result, according to a 2013 Manpower survey, is that “41 per cent of firms face difficulty finding qualified workers, while 80 per cent said that job candidates lack basic life skills”.
There is need for collaborative effort to train and empower our youth, while addressing unemployment and labour market issues within the region,” Turner-Jones said, pointing out that that was a primary objective of NEO, which will run from 2016 to 2018.
Other objectives are:
• Building the capacity of critical national youth training and service provider organisations;
• Strengthening job placement entities that are expected to place vulnerable young people trained through NEO Jamaica programme in jobs; and
• Aligning training programmes in educational institutions with the needs of labour market.
“We have to start being more strategic about training. We need to train for jobs and skills that are actually needed in the marketplace,” Turner-Jones stressed.
The Government’s Labour Market Information System put the youth unemployment rate in Jamaica at an average of 32.17 per cent from 2012 through to 2015. The figure at the end of 2015 was 28.20 per cent.
“That’s more than two times the general unemployment rate, which is more or less consistent with the regional data. Targeted programmes geared at fostering employment among our youth, and equipping them to be more employable are therefore just as urgent in Jamaica as in the region,” Turner-Jones reasoned.
“In Jamaica , the unemployment to growth coefficient is 0.35, so to get unemployment down to 10 per cent from currently just above 13 per cent, Jamaica would need three years of three per cent growth. That is why I believe the creation of the Economic Growth Council is a step in the right direction, and the IDB remains committed to support the Government’s efforts to maintain fiscal discipline while creating a vibrant economy,” she added.
Over the past year the IDB has worked with civil society, government and business organisations to create the NEO Jamaica Alliance, which includes the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, HEART Trust/NTA, National Youth Service, the Planning Institute of Jamaica, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, and the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology.
The governor general’s ‘I Believe’ initiative joined forces with the alliance at the launch on Friday, June 3.