Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Editorial | How the youth can fix Jamaica

Published:Saturday | July 29, 2017 | 7:00 AM

Older Jamaicans may be forgiven for bemoaning the lack of innovation by millennials and their parents before them, for while technology has been moving at breakneck speed across the globe, our growth in this area has been sluggish.

The traditional areas of economic activity such as bauxite and sugar continue to get support from Government, while many of the creative industries, including entertainment and culture, are struggling to stay afloat.

Jamaica and many of her sister territories have the challenge of reversing the persistent problem of unemployment, especially among the youth. The lack of jobs and opportunities for advancement has left scores of youth vulnerable to the lure of scammers, gangs, and other criminal elements.

To fill that void created by the paucity of jobs, there needs to be economic activity that will create employment opportunities. But where are these opportunities to be found? Every year, thousands of school leavers join the job search, but for the majority, they can only find temporary positions, part-time, volunteer, or other unattractive options.

Some people will, therefore, have to create jobs instead of seek jobs. It is a fact that small business and self-employment are making a significant contribution in this changing labour market.

This explains why we are keenly interested in the work of the Junior Achievement Jamaica (JAJ), which has used its flagship high-school programme, the Junior Achievement Company of Entrepreneurs (JACE), to teach students how to operate a business, while learning the core business skills required to succeed globally.

The significance of the JAJ's recent successful exposition, which put on display a number of new products created by the students, effectively demonstrated how an ordinary person can be transformed into an entrepreneur if given the right training and motivation.

 

NEED FOR ENTERPRISE EDUCATION

 

The JAJ's work highlights the need for enterprise education to be a part of the curriculum. The participating students created business plans and developed their models and started companies making products such as lip balms, cell phone stands, and juices. We imagine that these activities strengthened and enriched their school experience and helped them to identify and solve problems, take risks, and develop the grit for hard work. These are all talents they will need to navigate life.

It's the kind of conversation we want to hear from the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) as it seeks to remain relevant in a system that is not necessarily preparing someone for the labour force today, but someone who will develop a business and hire employees.

The emphasis on entrepreneurial education is the kind of topic that the JTA ought to place on its agenda as part of its annual conference. This is an attempt to urge our teachers to get to the heart of the matter of why so many children leave school totally unprepared for the world.

We, therefore, welcome the collaboration between the USAID, the Ministry of Education, the Jamaica Public Service, and CitiBank to expand the format of the JACE programme in order to ensure that entrepreneurial education is integrated into the education system.

By exposing grade-nine students in the island's 168 high schools to entrepreneurial education, the lines of action can be developed to tap into their creative potential and allow these millennials to chase big dreams and improve their social mobility.

A way must be found to get the job done.