Government must stop viewing youth involvement as a quota to be fulfilled. Young people have very important roles to play in development, at the community and national levels, and they must be constructively engaged to allow them to play those roles.
Also, we must change the narrative that speaks of youth solely as being 'the leaders of tomorrow'. Youth are the citizens of today and in many instances, they are the leaders of today. There is no minimum threshold age for being a leader and both in Saint Lucia and around the world, we have many examples of young people playing leadership roles in society. Therefore, our perception of, and attitudes to, young people must change,
Investing in youth has significant medium and long-term socio-economic benefits.
There is tremendous creativity in our youth and if given the opportunities and the right enabling environment, they can compete with the best of what the world has to offer. Government has an obligation to provide as much support possible to encourage the development of the creative talents of our young people and to facilitate the expression of that creativity in viable economic endeavours.
Youth entrepreneurship should be stimulated and incentives must be provided to encourage youth businesses in areas like music, theatre, art, graphic design, fashion, publishing, photography, software development, craft and video gaming.
Saint Lucia has a rich and successful 'susu' and cooperative culture. This should be built upon to develop new approaches for making finance available to young entrepreneurs.
Credit unions should be supported to encourage a greater savings culture among young people.
Government should encourage and assist micro-finance institutions to link training and finance opportunities, with a special emphasis on programs directed at and tailored to young people.
Entrepreneurship education and counselling should be provided at the secondary school level. Students should be encouraged to develop business skills that will allow them to exploit existing and emerging markets and circumstances. Financial literacy programs should be mandatory for all students in secondary school.
Government should work closely with the private sector to develop youth employment training or apprenticeship programs that can provide young people with critical on-the-job training and help them to acquire the additional skills that will make them successful.
A job search facility should be created to provide information on the jobs available in the public and private sectors and to help young people identify potential employment opportunities.
Government should work with professional organizations such as the Bar Association, the Association of Professional Engineers, the Medical and Dental Association, the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Association, and others to provide structured career guidance programs to students in secondary schools around the island.
The formation of youth groups at the community and national levels should be supported. Registered youth groups should be allowed to use public buildings like community and human resource development centres for their meetings. Financial assistance should also be provided for administrative support services for registered youth groups and clubs.
A mechanism should be created that will allow youth groups and their representatives to participate meaningfully in decision-making at Local Government and national levels.
Programs to support at-risk youth should be directed in the following areas:
Providing universal access to Early Childhood Development programs
Ensuring youth complete secondary school education
Delivering parenting skills training
Providing incentives to mitigate risky behaviour
Targeted interventions in high-risk areas
Second-chance opportunities must be provided for young people who may have drifted or dropped out of mainstream society. Government should work together with NGOs like RISE, CARE and the NYC to re-integrate these young people and provide them with the tools necessary to complete their education and earn meaningful employment.
Government should encourage sporting endeavour at the community and national levels through financial, institutional and programmatic support.
Sporting facilities at the national and community levels must be properly maintained and access to them guaranteed to local sportsmen and women
State-owned radio and television stations should be encouraged to provide coverage for youth cultural and sporting events.