Fri | Sep 29, 2023

Senator wants NYS expanded; lobbies for new-age training for rural youth

Published:Monday | September 12, 2022 | 12:08 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter

Charging that youth development needs to be prioritised meaningfully with a joint government approach, Senator Natalie Campbell Rodriques has called for the National Youth Service (NYS) to be revamped to include persons ages 21-28.

This, she said, would allow the agency to offer more opportunities for young people and cut out the “work that the devil finds for idle hands”.

The senator also recommended that skills such as hairdressing, dressmaking, bartending, and masonry be removed as primary courses offered through the HEART Trust/NSTA to youth in rural and poor communities, and that new-age skills such as coding and robotics be included.

The creation of a National Mentorship Programme for youth in the sixth-form programme was also among her proposals.

“If we get youth development issues sorted, it will help to significantly lessen the levels of violence and disorder of each day,” Campbell Rodriques argued during her State of the Nation Debate in the Senate last Friday.

Implying that youth development is being viewed in a “token” and “social welfare” manner, the senator emphasised that more needs to be done to boost access.

She praised the implementation of the controversial Sixth Form Pathways Programme, which took effect this month, as “a good first step”.

However, she acknowledged that more work was needed.

Campbell Rodriques proposed that the agency offer five paths in which persons could enrol and become productive.

The areas were computer science, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence; military and policing; sports, sports health and sports recruitment; entertainment and entertainment management; and plumbing and electrical works.

At the same time, she called on training entities to widen the offerings being made available to youth, including modern and emerging industries.

“We have to help our young people to dream big and to know they can achieve and be so much more,” the senator said. “Let us not limit our young people because of where in Jamaica they are from.”

The senator said the mentorship programme would focus especially on males, including absentee fathers and dads who are not adept at parenting.

“We see the fallout in the statistics and need to act urgently to prevent the situation from worsening,” she said.

Under the programme, participants would be assigned mentors throughout the duration or would be allowed to find their own mentors.

Mentors would be vetted and trained accordingly.