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“How can youths contribute to the creation of a prosperous future?”
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“How can youths contribute to the creation of a prosperous future?”

A recent conference on sustainable youth employment laid bare challenges including job creation, employability, entrepreneurship and equal opportunity, according Joshua Hamlet, a 23-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent from San Fernando in Trinidad and Tobago.

In my last article I focused on youth unemployment and, as destiny constantly practices irony, I recently had the opportunity to attend a conference organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat in Port of Spain.

The theme and title of the conference was ‘Investing in Youth: Exploring Strategies for Sustainable Employment’. Given the usual hopeful nature I bring to conferences, I made it my mission to gain something substantial from the gathering.

I am a strong advocate for changing the stereotypical structure of conferences, the mundane plenary and restricted discussion time overcomes over any real creative solution. From the introductory statements to the presentations muddled in generic powerpoint, that tingly feeling of another talking shop kept nudging me.

The audience was a combination of stakeholders pulled together in a naturally antagonistic relationship. The room was a muddle of the competing objectives of the private and public sectors. Notwithstanding my personal biases, the information shared during the conference was invaluable, the meat of which was gained in individual interactions rather than group sessions. It was impressive to meet Caribbean entrepreneurs there and humbling to see that the Caribbean has the potential for innovation.

The conference had four priorities related to young people and employment: employment creation, employability, entrepreneurship and equal opportunities. It focused on creating sustainable youth employment policy and programmes at the national and regional level. It became a very timely place to voice a question that has been repeated asked: “how can young people contribute to the creation of a prosperous future?” This may seem like a ‘duh’ question, however debate on their contribution is a pivotal issue that needs be resolved in a time when youths are no longer the leaders of tomorrow, but today.

The deputy chair of the Commonwealth Youth Caucus was clear when he challenged the attendees to invest in young people’s dreams. A commitment to these dreams fuels tensions between generations. Older people often want to hold on to authority and younger people want to scrap it. This tension can be both toxic and positive, but being a part of this conference showed me the positive side to the debate.

The issue that personally distresses me is the lack of will to push boundaries and arrive at concrete action. Conferences are ameliorative, however they remind us that young people are fighting for a space that is rightly theirs. The conference was beneficial, but whether it serves its purpose will rely on whether there is concrete action by the Commonwealth.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/


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