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 noted that, as young Bahamians make the transition to adulthood, they need to be placed in arenas and spaces where they can “receive unfailing and unwavering support, quality guidance and the best opportunities to gain new skills and pertinent experiences”.
“Therefore, our local youth organizations are so important,” Minister Bowleg said. “These organizations play a vital role in the overall development of young Bahamians, by providing safe spaces and positive activities.
“They assist my Ministry and the Ministry of National Security by diverting young Bahamians, from a life of crime.”
“The ‘way forward’ is to provide more for these organizations,” he added. “This is a caring government, a government that wants the best for all Bahamians, especially the youth.
Fixed youth organizations that received an annual grant from my Ministry, were given a 10 per cent increase. I want to ensure that, these various organizations, can sustain their positive, constructive models and platforms.”
Minister Bowleg said that, after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his Ministry was very pleased to present the National Summer Employment Programme – which takes place for four weeks during the summer months — with that year’s installment slated for July 4th to 29th.
He pointed out that the purpose of the programme was to positively engage youth during the summer break, by providing a safe and positive environment, targeting personal interests, skill development, and healthy social interaction.
“The Division of Youth facilitates five separate components for the National Summer Employment Programme,” Minister Bowleg said. “These components include our Summer Camps, Apprentice Programmes, Corporate Bahamas Placement, Private Summer Grants and Family Island Grants.”
He noted that, over the years, the programme had proven to be beneficial to its participants as well as the community at large.
“These benefits include a greater understanding of financial management, real-world experience, improved interpersonal and communication skills, career and trade choice assistance, positive role models and mentorship and connections for future opportunities,” Minister Bowleg said.
“The Ministry’s budget allocation of $1,000,000 will assist in facilitating this all-important programme,” he added.
Minister Bowleg noted that storms were more intense and destructive, and, while his Government cannot stop hurricanes, it can educate persons about the deadly storms.
“So, this Davis led administration has taken steps towards ensuring Bahamians, especially our youth, are better suited to respond to national emergencies,” he said. “The first program that will be taken from the Blue Print for change, for my Ministry, is the National Youth Guard.”
“Lifted from our Blue Print for Change, the National Guard Program is designed to teach young people the skills needed, to assist the nation during a disaster or emergency,” he added.
Minister Bowleg pointed out that the four-phase program, with a 27 month cycle, will become an employment feeder for private and public agencies.
“It will also instill participants with technical skills such as CERT certification, boat captain license training, risk assessment, disaster management, conservation training, soft skills and physical training,” he said.
“We will train 100 young people in the first year which will included recruits coming from the Family Islands,” he added. “Participants will benefit from stipends, insurance and a child care benefit.”
Minister Bowleg said that it would be done in the following four phases:
- Phase/Component 1: training (3 months) –Specialty expert training
- Phase/Component 2 – internship (3 months) — On job training
- Phase/Component 3: On-call/reserve (2yr) – On-call or as-needed service in case of emergencies
- Phase /Component 4: Quarterly training sessions (weekend) four times a year
“My Ministry intends to start recruitment and promotion, with public education campaigns, in September,” he said. “The program is expected to launch in January, 2023. The estimated cost is $1.5 million.”
“We cannot transform this country for the better, if we don’t invest in our youth,” Minister Bowleg added. “Invest and develop their skills. This is vital and the only ‘way forward’.”