PM seeks private sector help to expand HOPE

PM seeks private sector help to expand HOPE

Senior staff reporter

Saturday, February 15, 2020

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ABOUT 50,000 unattached youth and volunteers could eventually benefit from the HOPE (Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment) programme for which Prime Minister Andrew Holness is seeking private sector support.

The prime minister met yesterday with members of the private sector to see how they can assist the Government in creating more opportunities for employment and engagement for young people under the programme, which was started some 32 months ago to help control rising youth unemployment.

The programme is in part a training and apprenticeship programme which will provide an avenue for the development of fully rounded individuals, through a system of national service corps, to become productive members of society.

The programme has, initially, targeted unattached youth between 18 and 24 years old, who are not engaged in any meaningful way in Jamaica.

“The Government will provide training and the supervision. I can't make any promise on the stipend, but the private sector can help us with the stipend and opportunities in the area of work,” the prime minister added.

Holness said the Government had taken the decision to go for private sector support to beef up HOPE, and has been experimenting with increasing its coverage, due to the heavy demand for participation by young people who have failed to make the necessary academic progress, or who have volunteered in any way for the programme because of their inability to find work, otherwise.

The prime minister told a press briefing at Jamaica House on Thursday that the next phase of the programme, which he hopes to announce when he makes his 2020/21 budget presentation in the House of Representatives on Thursday, March 19, should include private sector support to increase the number of youth that it can afford.

“If they come on board in this first year, we could recruit two to three thousand more youths, which could eventually lead to the engagement of about 50,000 per year. That would truly put a dent in the whole business of [dealing with] unattached youngsters,” he said.

However, he argued that, in order to reach that 50,000 figure, the volunteer aspect which is now being rolled into the programme would have to increase, immensely.

“The volunteer aspect of the programme is now being rolled out, so you could take it to say that this is not really the launch, but we are explaining to the public what is to come and where the programme is, as we speak,” he added.

He said that in the future the Government would wish to see young people, who have graduated but cannot find jobs, and who want to give back and, in the meantime, learn a skill and gain the experience, allow the country to harness the great potential that exists but needs to be co-ordinated.

“You will hear more about this in the days to come, and certainly when I make my budget presentation in even more detail,” he said.

Holness added that the broader vision of his Administration is to create a Peace Corps-like programme, where young Jamaicans can serve at home and abroad.

“That's the broader vision, but we are not there yet. We have to start small and locally,” he noted.

He explained that the HOPE programme currently deals with some 20,000 youth, while other government programmes address the issues of another 5,000.

“The truth is that there are too many young persons who are not attached to their family. They grow up in a household but how much control do the parents exercise over them? Not much,” he pointed out.

Holness also informed the press that earlier the Government had sought to address the problem through extensions of their school programme, but there were too many youth who were not benefiting from the extended 13 years of education.

Other speakers at the briefing included the national coordinator of the HOPE programme, Colonel Martin Rickman; managing director of HEART NSTA, Dr Janet Dyer; special projects manager, Diandra Barrett; and scholarship recipient, Sebastien Lawrence, who spoke on behalf of the youth.

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