Wed | May 24, 2017

Give youth power to boss up their future

Published:Sunday | October 19, 2014 | 10:00 AM
Fourth-form student of Jamaica College in St Andrew, Gavin Smith, gives a critical eye to the school's robotics display at a Jamaica Day 2013 Exposition in Trelawny. Lisa Hanna, the youth minister, has urged youth graduates to see themselves as entrepreneurs instead of job holders. - File

Lisa Hanna, Guest Columnist

This year, we will produce 3.5 zetabytes (3.5 x 10^21) of unique information worldwide. This is more information than the previous 5,000 years.

Recently, tests have been carried out on third-generation fibre optics, demonstrating that one single fibre-optic strand can carry 10 trillion bits of information per second.

We are living in a data-driven world that affords 100 billion Google searches per month on the Internet, and 175 million Facebook users connected at any given moment. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest country in the world

Technology and data have changed the way the world works, and the way we do business. It has also changed the traditional modes of employment and how jobs are created. So much so, that the top 10 in-demand jobs for 2013 did not exist in 2004.

For the first time in our history, we have four different generations working side by side: the traditionalist, the boomer, the Gen Xer, and the millennial, all of whom grew up learning to communicate differently: write me, call me, email me, text me, respectively.

For the most part, I serve the 'text me' generation of young people aged 15-25, all plugged in and connected to one form of technology or another.

This reality is not as easy as it seems, as it confronts youth with an urgency that they are competing in a world that is rapidly changing with technical information doubling every two years.

NOT EASY FOR LAWMAKERS

This reality is that it is not easy for us as legislators either, as demands are placed on us daily by this generation to keep pace with global trends to provide them with opportunities, not to mention keeping up our daily interaction with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

I meet and interact with Jamaican youth daily. They are savvy, they have access to information, and they are not shy to tell you what they want. However, many were never taught to connect the dots of how their lives and prospective employment opportunities are directly impacted by the same technologies they have become accustomed to using within the global economy.

The current generation of young people is the largest the world has ever seen. The latest estimate put the number of young people between the ages 15 and 24 on the planet at 1.2 billion. Each year, around 121 million young people turn 16 and most of them begin seeking jobs. Young people make up a quarter of the world's total population, yet they account for 40 per cent of the unemployed. In 2013, the International Labour Organization estimated that 73 million young people were unemployed across the world, which is estimated at 12.6 per cent and is close to crisis peak. Additionally, the ratio of youth-to-adult unemployment stands at 2-to-7. Unfortunately, young people continue to be almost three times more likely to be unemployed than adults.

The traditional job-for-life has become rarer. The US Department of Labour estimates that by the age of 38, a person will hold between 10-14 jobs. Current estimates also suggest that the world will need to create approximately half a billion new jobs by 2030, as more and more young people join the labour market.

HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT

Here, in Jamaica, unemployment rates among youth aged 14-24 years was 33.6 per cent for April 2014 when compared with 38.5 per cent in April 2013 (STATIN). In the National Youth Survey, 63 per cent listed employment and career as their most important aspiration. That is why one could argue the increase in upper-secondary enrolment of youth (15-16 years) from the poorest household in the last decade from 21.7 per cent in 2001 to 42 per cent in 2010 (PIOJ) as many see higher education as a means to employment.

When I speak at university graduating ceremonies and ask, "How many of you will be looking for a job when you graduate versus how many of you will be creating a job when you graduate?", approximately 99 per cent of the graduates in all cases raise their hands in the affirmative to the first question.

The Ministry of Youth and Culture has been mindful of these realities. Although we are just one ministry working with young people, since 2012 to date, we have trained close to 40,000 young people and placed 15,588 in seasonal jobs.

POSITIONING YOUTH FOR JOBS

The ministry is in a state of transition, providing and supporting training of our young people to be suitable for the jobs that will be in demand globally.

Technology has expanded our reach significantly. Our NYCD YouthJamaica.com website currently has more than 116,372 registered users up from 46,000 in 2013. At this website, young people are able to access jobs, scholarships and post résumés. This year, $322 million has been allocated through the National Youth Service for this purpose. Just last week, we signed an MOU to provide students with scholarships to the Caribbean Maritime Institute, as it has the highest job placement in Jamaica, where nine out of 10 students receive a job upon graduation. We have done the same with the College of Agriculture, Science and Education.

However, getting youth interested in agriculture, the cultural and creative industries, shipping/logistics and business processing outsourcing - industries that the Government has chosen to give us the best competitive advantage for job creation - is not easy, as many are still interested in traditional career paths. Additionally, many are risk averse to starting their own business.

As part of the transition, we will be the tabling this November the Revised Youth Policy to galvanise the focus of the country on the importance of youth development to secure the nation's future. This will involve the integration of the various departments within ministries with youth programmes for training, reducing obstacles for starting a business, and providing tangible incentives to our youth to become productive members of our workforce.

I have the privilege to serve a generation that has the world at their fingertips just by pressing 'Send'. Our collective mission is to ensure that we prepare them to take full advantage of this data-driven world to see themselves as global producers rather than marginalised consumers. So the next time a young person hits 'Send', it opens an opportunity.

Lisa Hanna is minister of youth and culture. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.