NASSAU, The Bahamas – During his Contribution to the 2022/2023 Budget Debate in the House of Assembly, on June 13, 2022, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Mario Bowleg said that the function of the Division of Youth in The Bahamas was vital, as it serves as “a repository – the place where facilitation, creation, enhancement and implementation takes place, on a national scale, all in efforts to foster positive youth development”.
“The Division is happy that it does not do this alone; and it enjoys a wholesome partnership with a multitude of agencies, stakeholders and partners,” Minister Bowleg said.
“The Division’s aim is to facilitate the acquisition of skills and orientation that will enable young people to participate at all levels in society,” he added.
“The Division of Youth achieves its goals through various innovative, creative and transformative, life-changing programmes, which have strategic focus on youth development and youth empowerment, as I will now outline.”
Minister Bowleg said that the Fresh Start Programme is a 16-week youth employment programme that engages youth ages 18-25. The programme provides both training and opportunities for those who may have been unsuccessful in securing employment since leaving school, those who may be considered “at risk” and marginalized because of financial constraints, poor academic performances or an incomplete secondary education, he added.
“The Fresh Start Programme includes Job Readiness, Personal Development, Skill Set Training and Internship,” Minister Bowleg noted. “Participants see improvements in personal qualities, such as job search skills, they can make better sound professional and personal decisions while gaining momentum and confidence for their journey ahead.”
He said that the Division of Youth was pleased to launch the Fresh Start Programme in New Providence and Grand Bahama for a Spring cohort in February, for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I recently attended the graduation of this program in Grand Bahama and reminded the graduates that a Fresh Start is not only a new beginning, but a new mind set,” Minister Bowleg said.
“I am now pleased to advise that this country now has 48 young talented, fully trained individuals ready for the job market,” he added. “In fact, all 10 of the graduates who studied carpentry and electrical secured jobs with the Urban Renewal Small House Repairs Unit. I am advised that Bahama Rock is considering engaging the welders.
“You can see that we are paving ‘The Way Forward’. The increase in budget for this programme, from $270,000 to $320,000 allows us to engage additional persons in New Providence and Grand Bahama in the next Cohort.”
Minister Bowleg said that the Job Ready Programme had enjoyed much success with its demographic of young people between the ages of 16 to 18.
“This programme specifically caters to new high school graduates. The internship component is facilitated through a long-standing partnership with Corporate Bahamas,” he said. “While engaged in internship, the participants receive on the job training and mentorships that will further improve their employability skills and increase the possibilities of retaining long term employment.”
Minister Bowleg pointed out that the budget allocation for that program is $40,000.00.
The Be Inspired Programme is a government funded, grant-based programme designed to empower young Bahamian citizens, 18 – 35 years, seeking to establish or expand their small businesses, Minister Bowleg said.
“It provides aspiring entrepreneurs who possess viable, small business ideas, with the tools and other resources necessary for successfully launching and the management of their businesses,” he said. “Successful participants are awarded grants up to $5,000 which enables them to procure the goods and materials for their business ventures.”
“To date, we are pleased to report that approximately $210,000 has been paid out to successful applicants,” he added.
Minister Bowleg said that, at that time, there were 95 new submissions and the 2nd Cohort of the Be Inspired Programme was calibrated to be delivered online utilizing the present budget allocation of $400,000.
“However, while the allocated budget is pegged at $400,000, I am happy to announce that my ministry will be partnering with the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) to secure additional funding” to facilitate aspiring young Bahamian entrepreneurs.
“The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture will continue to be the adjudicators and approve all applications with SBDC providing the funding.”
Minister Bowleg said that the Youth Leaders Certification Programme (YLCP) was a highly subscribed training programme that equipped Youth Leaders and Youth Workers in effective techniques and methods of youth work and development.
“It aims to standardize the training of Youth Leaders and equalize the services delivered to our young people on a national level,” he said. “This programme also assists in the formulation of basic concepts regarding the role of youth organizations in the country.”
Minister Bowleg pointed out that the YLCP typically ran for 16 weeks and was facilitated on Tuesday evenings from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
“The Spring 2022 cohort of the Youth Leaders Certification Program was launched in March in a hybrid format to include Family Islanders and will conclude in June, with a hybrid graduation exercise for a total of 68 graduates, which will include Family Island participants,” he said.
“The budgeted sum of $30,000 will be used to facilitate two additional cohorts of this program over the next fiscal year.”