It’s a fact that youth today make up the larger part of the population of almost every country in the world. This presents certain challenges for policymakers to develop, implement and maintain programmes and activities which must be economically and socially oriented to satisfy their (youth’s) desires.
It is also well known that the absence of well-thought-out programmes with respect to youth development impacts negatively on our young people, and sometimes even lead to them resigning themselves to lawlessness and other anti-social behaviours that are damaging to society.
Caricom Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque earlier this year said that the majority of victims, as well as perpetrators of crimes reported by the Police, are young males 18 to 35 years old. He pointed to the fact that there are a number of socio-economic determinants of crime, the least of which is the high youth unemployment in the Region — 25 per cent. That is three times the average and is the highest. This is surely a reason to be concerned, as right away, one would begin to worry about the kind of future these persons would have, and the contribution they would make to their societies if any at all. Certainly, this is enough reason to cause governments and policymakers to take a closer look at what is happening in their individual countries, and take steps to remedy the situation.
Certainly, there is a great need for intervention in order to combat the current challenges facing young people. In order to prepare young people for workplace success, job training programmes need to go beyond technical instruction and teach “life skills,” such as communication, reliability, and teamwork. This push for teaching youth life skills has been validated by employers who have consistently reported that, above all, they want to hire employees who possess workplace-ready skills such as communication, teamwork, motivation and responsibility. Technical skills, they say, can be learned on the job.
In addition to teaching youth the life skills employers look for, there is a need to introduce complementary life planning activities in this component. These activities help youth in assessing who they are, their aspirations for the future, and define realistic steps toward achieving these goals.
Guyana has a number of programmes geared towards equipping young people with various skills for the world of work etc. This is commendable but more focus needs to be placed on combining teaching life skills with the various academic or technical subjects. Meaning, these programmes should include assessment and identification of ways to build competency and skills supportive of healthy behaviours, to help young people as they mature into adulthood.
Additionally, institutions such as the family and religious bodies need to take up their roles more seriously, as happened before. Historically, the older generation had managed to transmit their beliefs, values, traditions, customs and institutions to the younger members of their societies. This was achieved largely because of the impact of agencies of socialisation, such as the family, religion and the schools. Today, the impact of these institutions has been challenged and undermined by new forces, particularly television and the internet, and the pop culture as a whole.
Further, the role of the private sector should never be underestimated. There is a need for funding for many crucial programmes aimed at creating better opportunities for young persons here. Such programmes, once effectively implemented, would see our young people become well equipped with the necessary skills to develop themselves and in turn contribute to the overall development of the country. The private sector is one of the main beneficiaries of an educated and skilled workforce, and it should seek to invest in, and help to build, the pool of talent it wishes to draw from.
It is well accepted that progressive countries in the world have strong systems for engaging youth in policy formation and in creating or altering programmes designed to support youth. We believe that if our young people are to make more mature and responsible judgements and engage in activities that are the hallmark of socially-productive adulthood, certain support systems for development must be present in the environment. Teaching life skills is a good way to start.