Prudence N. Barnes, Contributor
WITH RECENT figures showing youth unemployment in the region of 30 per cent, Jacqueline Coke-Lloyd, Executive Director of the Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF), said that it is critical for special attention to be paid to properly preparing youth to become employees, employers and leaders of the future.
She suggested that JEF and the Government forge a partnership to provide incentives to young persons who work hard in legitimate ways to achieve success, as well as the development of a structured programme of re-socialising the youth and ensuring proper education for the nation's children.
The recently launched JEF Youth Employment Network is aimed at strengthening youth development by better co-ordinating agencies and organisations which provide assistance to youth for business training, development an entrepreneurial activities to prevent duplication, among other objectives.
Mrs. Coke-Lloyd said that young people needed to be properly prepared for the workforce. "We have to prepare them in every way possible...because these are the employees of the future, these are the employers of the future and these are leader of the future and we have to play an important in shaping that and we need to start early," she stated.
"We need to show (youngsters) the value of work and the reward for hard work....We have to find a way to show the link between education, reward and a successful life," she stated, adding that there has to be a reward which is greater than that for those who are working illegally and those who choose not to work."
A major issue facing employers she said, was finding the right kind of employee for business. The right kind of employee, Mrs. Coke Lloyd said " is an employee who is productive, educated to the relevant standards, who is trained and who understands business and who wants to work".
Mrs. Coke Lloyd said employers have had to spend time correcting anti-social behaviour when youngsters come into their enterprises, adding that such behaviour often come from the home or the community. "The employer has to spend time managing those issues - so it is education, anti-social behaviour, getting them to understand the discipline of work, what does it mean to them, what does it mean to the organisation and to the country," she said.
Observing that it was the same anti-social behaviour which led to crimes, Mrs. Coke-Lloyd stated that "many of the youngsters have not been conditioned and socialised in a particular way. They don't have the relevant education which gives them the reasoning power and the confidence in their own ability to do something without conflict".
She said the JEF had embarked on a powerful path towards ensuring that those youngsters employed by its members and those who were going to play a role in running the country in the years to come, were the best persons.
In responding to the criticism that many inner city youth were discriminated against in the private sector simply based on the fact of their place of abode, Mrs. Coke Lloyd said: "We've heard this, and it is something that the JEF is very clear on, that an employer should not turn away anyone because of their address."
While noting that there may be some employers who discriminate, she pointed out that the research has shown that many inner city youth were not turned away because of their address, but because they were unemployable and had anti-social behaviour. Asked about educated and qualified students from the inner city who have difficulty finding work, she said one had to be careful how they define qualified. "When you are qualified, we are not talking about having a degree or having certificates. A qualified persons is someone who has the education, the training and the social behaviour that is required," she said.
She said the JEF will be working under a United Nations Programme to take employers into inner city communities to speak with youngsters to enhance their potential for employment and success.