Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Floyd Green | Government advancing holistic youth policy

Published:Sunday | April 23, 2017 | 4:00 AM
Floyd Green

We note with interest your columnist Jaevion Nelson's article of April 15, 2017 titled 'Public-sector reform could stifle youth', in which he articulated concerns that youth development and involvement in policy formation may be curtailed by ongoing rationalisation in the public sector. He seemed particularly concerned about the continuation of youth-development projects and the role and functions of the National Youth Service (NYS) once merged into the HEART Trust-NTA programmes.

We welcome Mr Nelson's intervention, as it gives us an opportunity to provide further insight into our moves to strengthen the youth sector and advance, not curtail, the involvement of our youth.

To this end, we have revised the National Youth Policy 2004 and completed a review process of the Green Paper that took into account the views and perspectives of youth. This new policy outlines a vision, policy priorities, associated goals, and strategic objectives. The policy priorities are:

- Education and training.

- Health and well-being.

- Employment and entrepreneurship.

- Youth participation and involvement.

- Social inclusion and reintegration.

- Institutional and youth sector arrangements.

Though not yet tabled, our interventions are being guided by these policy considerations. Central to our interventions has to be a process of refining and reforming our entities that will be called upon to execute the policy.

 

ELEVATED YOUTH DEVELOPMENT

 

Youth participation and involvement is a central plank. It is my fundamental belief that the voices of our youth must be heard at every level, irrespective of their social status. As such, student leadership and governance remains a major thrust of the Youth Division, with the National Secondary Students' Council (NSSC) and the Jamaica Union of Tertiary Students (JUTS) being the two programmes used to invoke this thrust.

Last year, we undertook a full audit of student councils in our high schools, and this year we will embark on a programme to ensure that all schools have active student councils. The Youth Division coordinated myriad national and regional training workshops in leadership, advocacy, communication, and child rights, engaging more than 730 student council representatives.

Additional training for the NSSC executive body was conducted to include policy development, drafting of position papers, public speaking, report drafting events management, and social-media management. It is for that reason that the NSSC continues to maintain a high bar of leadership and 'Energise Youth Over Time'.

We will, however, not stop at the already-established programmes that we found. As Mr Nelson himself observed, the National Youth Parliament (NYP) was resuscitated last year. This was after a six-year break. The revived NYP has been restructured to provide youth the opportunity to deepen their understanding of parliamentary democracy; develop their skills in research, policy formulation and analysis, advocacy, public speaking and communication; dialogue with national political representatives; and review legislation and policy towards advancing the youth mainstreaming agenda. This will be expanded. We will continue to strengthen our newly formed National Youth Advisory Council, which has already started to make significant contribution to our policy dialogue.

In addition, the National Youth Council of Jamaica (NYCJ), the umbrella organisation for youth clubs across Jamaica, is being revamped and strengthened to foster youth participation at the community level. Our goal is to take youth development to a new level, where we truly elevate youth.

There, however, is more that must be done. The issue of youth unemployment continues to hinder our drive for further youth development. We have to ensure that our ministry is so designed to provide a critical focus on this year. All of my youth advocates and practitioners can agree that it is not a lack of ideas for development; it is often a lack of resources to execute same. It is for this reason that our merger is directly focused on providing the necessary resources to make this vision into reality.

The merger of the HEART Trust-NTA, National Youth Service, Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning and the Apprenticeship Board will allow for alignment of remedial education, skills training and youth development. It will see to the establishment of an extensive youth placement model and apprenticeship scheme, with dedicated focus on youth development and life skills.

In the reimagined HEART Trust, our youth will maintain a sense of identity through the NYS brand, but with an expanded mandate that will maintain development, life skills, and volunteerism among our young people at its core. In fact, we have already organised significant expansion for our Summer Work Experience Programme, our Graduate Work Experience Programme and our Empowerment Programme for this financial year.

 

Youth Information Centres and HOPE

 

Additionally, we now have access to more than 150 sites islandwide to host our youth development programmes and to establish youth hubs and access points for further engagement. These will be developed under our new vision for our youth centres: the establishment of innovation hubs. The team at the Youth Division has also completed a business model to position these hubs as innovative, responsive, youth-friendly spaces that utilise positive youth development approaches to build self and harness the talents and creative potential of Jamaica's young people for wealth creation and active citizenship.

One of the clear differences of this administration is that our drive for youth development has support at the highest level of Government. In fact, it was Prime Minister Andrew Holness who, in his presentation, outlined two of the most significant projects to target our young people in our country's history. Using the Housing, Opportunity, Prosperity, Employment (HOPE) Programme, the prime minister has outlined the establishment of eight national youth corps which will provide our young people with Work to Learn, Earn, Give and Save (LEGS).

The fact is, the Government is putting its money where its mouth is. There is no diminution in youth involvement in policy formulation, nor is there any reduction of resources. In reality, the very opposite is the case.

- Floyd Green is minister of state in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.