Address- Graduation Ceremony- Youth Entrepreneurship Programme 2018- Permanent Secretary (Ag)
I am indeed grateful for the opportunity to be here to celebrate with you, as this represents a welcome return to familiar territory. Having worked at the Ministry of Education, I am always pleased to attend functions such as this, which celebrates our young people, their ideas and achievements.
I wish to applaud the East Port of Spain Development Company (EPOSDC) for this Youth Entrepreneurship Programme Initiative, which is being offered for the fourth consecutive time this year to young people between the ages of 14 to 17.
As part of its mandate, EPOSDC is tasked with nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit of residents within East Port of Spain and environs. We all need to understand that economic sustainability is required if we want to move East Port of Spain from what it has become to what is possible through regeneration. It is therefore vital that we encourage and equip our young entrepreneurs to succeed, as that will drive further development and investment in the area.
With growth will come financial independence, an opportunity to create wealth and provide employment opportunities, which will collectively contribute to the economic, social and physical transformation that is needed in east Port of Spain.
I understand the Youth Entrepreneurship Programme has exceeded even the aspirations of EPOSDC, as this year over 160 applicants applied from all over the country. This meant that provisions had to be made to cater for 94 students, instead of the sixty-five (65) which were originally estimated to attend. It is also interesting to note that seventy seven (77) of the participants this time around are females.
This tells us that our young women are willing to be the change agents within their communities and carve a space for themselves and their families within the economic landscape. I therefore urge our young men to do the same so that no one gets left behind. Take that message with you as you embark on your individual journeys after this training experience. Utilise the opportunity to marry your talents and creativity with the business skills you would have learnt to create and benefit from worthwhile pursuits.
The Programme is also helpful in that it promotes a social and cultural identity while addressing psycho-social problems for at risk youths. Through programmes such as these, we can make a difference in the lives of our young people by ensuring they understand that they do matter, that their lives can have meaning and that they can contribute to their communities and country in a meaningful and productive way.
It was Marcus Garvey who once said that the man (or woman) who is not able to develop and use his or her mind is bound to be a slave to another who uses his mind. I am not sure how many of you know this but these words were later put into song by Bob Marley, ‘’Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, non but ourselves can free our mind”. So I want to caution you, graduates, not to allow yourselves to be dominated by others and in so doing lose the freedom to think and act independently.
As Emancipation approaches keep in mind that freedom does not come easily or cheaply but must be viewed as an opportunity to forge your own paths through the sweat of your brows and the innovative creativity of your minds so that you can become the persons you were meant to be.
As in previous years, the participants were introduced to the world of entrepreneurship, as the Programme is designed to provide them with the requisite knowledge and skills to successfully start and operate a business from its embryonic stage to actual implementation and growth. The participants would also have benefited from several talk sessions with business owners who continue to navigate challenging circumstances to stay competitive, relevant and successful.
So I am excited to view the presentations that will showcase the business plans of our young participants and demonstrate what they would have learnt over the last ten (10) days.
At this time, on behalf of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and its agencies, and on by own behalf, I will like to personally congratulate each of the graduates and their families for supporting them through this training programme.
For those who will follow their destinies and become entrepreneurs, let me leave you with this message as I close, ‘do not strive to negate your shortcomings and setbacks in life but use them instead as the impetus to reinvent, retool and reengineer yourself and your businesses to remain viable in this ever changing world’.