PHILIPSBURG:--- On July 15th, 2018, young people worldwide will be celebrating the international World Youth Skills Day (WYSD. The United Nations General Assembly designated the international day in order to raise awareness on the importance of training and development in the labor market. The aim of World Youth Skills Day, is to raise awareness of the high unemployment amongst youth, and advocate the importance of training and development as key determinants for economic growth; hence, bridging the gap between education and the labor market. On World Youth Skills Day, policy-makers are encouraged to address legislation that focusses on innovative and emerging economies, and the necessary vocational skills needed to promote youth employment in a transforming labor market. Benjamin Disraeli said: ‘The Youth of a Nation are the trustees of posterity’. By giving our youth the right education and skills, they can change the future of our societies to prosperous ones, with their good behavior, and that is exactly what we in Sint Maarten are striving for.
Youth unemployment is a real threat
Labour Organization (ILO) publication, has states that 73.4 million young people in the world were estimated to be unemployed in 2015, which equated to a 13.1% world youth unemployment rate. On Sint Maarten, the Labor Force Survey of 2017 indicated that the unemployment rate is 23, 8% for youth between the 15 and 24 years of age.
The importance of vocational training and technical skill development amongst youth to combat unemployment
On November 20th, 2017, the International Labor Organization published the “Global Employment Trends for Youth 2017” report.
The report highlighted regional and demographical concerns of youth unemployment, and the rapid technology and sectorial shifts impacting the quantity and quality of jobs. Emerging economies will experience four technologies that will shape the way we work in the future. These are 3D printing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of things and Robotics.
Subsequently, future jobs may depend on one’s ability to manufacture service and maintain automotive technologies. Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) will have to include these technologies into the curriculum to ensure the smooth transition of youths into the labor market.
At present, the labor market of St. Maarten is being assessed by the Department of Statistics. The outcome of this research will illustrate the current direction of the labor market. However, with the growing demands for new technologies and automation in more developed western countries, islands within the Caribbean region will soon be confronted with the demands for more complex and non-routine expertise, impacting employment across all economic sectors.
This will pose a challenge for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, as the largest percentage of students leaving primary education attends Technical and Vocational Education schools. Nonetheless, the Ministry recognizes these economic shifts and has taken initiatives to introduce courses such as; automotive technician and Electrical engineering at the National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA). In addition, partnerships between the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, The World Bank and UNESCO are underway to secure the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the educational sector.
Training and 2030 SDG Agenda
By recognizing the international World Youth Skills Day, the United Nations hopes to strengthen global resources and build capacity to support legislation that will promote employment opportunities and shape technical and vocational education. To counter this global challenge, the United Nations has introduced the “Skills Development Package”, for motivation skills development. The resource kit includes: an Overview, a Campaign Flyer, and Information for Stakeholders; a Facilitator Guide and an Activity Checklist, to be find on the internet. The UN gives with SDG 4 for Quality Education several ideas on its website.
Policy development, St. Maarten
The Integrated Youth Policy of St. Maarten main objective is to reduce the overall youth unemployment, and merge the skills and qualifications with the demands of the labor market.
The general principles guiding the Integrated Youth Policy are; youth development, civic engagement and social economic participation.
The Government of St. Maarten through the Department of Youth is celebrating 20 years of executing the Business Outreach and Placement Program (BOPP), the Digikidz and the iSTEP program. The BOPP is a summer work experience program for students ages 16 to 24 years, who are in pre-exam or exam classes of high school or attending other full time education programs. The program requires students to attend workshop trainings for which they receive certificates of attendance. They are then sent to governmental and private sector businesses on interviews with the possibility of being selected for a 4 week summer job. Each year the Department strives to increase the number of available job placements and has seen a success rate over the pass years up to 105. Many students are retained beyond the 4 weeks and are sometimes employed by the businesses based on evaluations carried out by workplace supervisors and recommendations by the Department of Youth. The plan is to expand this program to include the component of entrepreneurship training for this target group as this will contribute to building capacity with an outlook on impacting the unemployment rates amongst the youth on St. Maarten.
The Department of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BAK), St. Maarten, is the designated focal point for UNESCOs Sustainable Development Goals.