In an attempt to address high unemployment among the youth population, Government yesterday announced a $2 billion apprenticeship programme targeting about 20,000 participants per year.
Making the announcement during his contribution to the 2005/06 sectoral debate in Gordon House, State Minister for Education Youth and Culture, Dr. Donald Rhodd, also tabled the long-awaited National Youth Policy, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.
He said the document would be driven by a national strategic plan to be approved by Cabinet.
In announcing the apprenticeship programme, Dr. Rhodd said participants would be paid a minimum wage while they contributed to productivity in the workplace.
Continuing education and mentoring will also be compulsory components of the programmes, the State Minister explained.
Highlighting the gravity of the impact that youth unemployment has on the economy, Dr. Rhodd said that the latest publication of the Economic and Social Survey 2004 indicates that youth unemployment stands at 30.6 per cent.
“That is four times more than the adult unemployment rate. Youth unemployment is linked to foregone productivity in Jamaica,” he said.
“According to a World Bank country study on Caribbean youth development, Jamaica’s GDP would grow by approximately six per cent if youth unemployment were to be eliminated,” argued Dr. Rhodd.
He stressed that partnership between the Government and the private sector was essential in addressing unemployment.
“This is where a partnership is engaged between the Government and business to put unemployed youth to productive work while they learn competencies necessary to meet demands in the labour market,” said Dr. Rhodd.
As incentives to participating businesses in the apprenticeship programme, the State Minister for Education, Youth and Culture said that the Government would be willing to offer tax write-offs against the background of a thorough cost-benefit analysis.
Dr. Rhodd also disclosed yesterday that the Education Ministry would launch a mandatory programme for the resocialisation of 110,000 students of grades 10 and 11 who displayed violent behaviour in school.
This programme, he said would be implemented by the HEART Trust/NTA, using the National Youth Service trademark soft skills training in resocialisation.
“I assure this honourable House that on completion of this programme, these youngsters will become Jamaica’s ‘Golden Nuggets’, emanating radiance and displaying confidence and character like our Sunshine Girls,” said Dr. Rhodd.