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Harvesting our human resource

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There is a familiar scriptural reference that the harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few. However, in the case of St. Vincent and the Grenadines as it pertains to our labor force, the laborers are not as scarce as the situation may appear at first glance. Instead, in our circumstances the laborers are simply not adequately harvested. That is an issue that must be urgently addressed if we are to establish a workforce ready to meet the demands of the 21st century. In this regard, there must be a properly planned and structured collaboration of the key stakeholders such as the government, the private sector, labor unions and all learning institutions working in a vital partnership. {{more}}

Last weekend I journeyed to Greggs to attend a fundraising event and made a stop in Lauders where the youths were having a weekend show. On enquiring, there were over two hundred young persons between the ages of 19-27 who either had not completed their primary school education, or had gone to secondary school, but either they failed the system or the system failed them. Nonetheless, one thing they all had in common was that they all are yet to have their human resources properly channeled. This same situation exists most rural villages. This perpetuates a system of marginalization which is not only demoralizing but unconscionable. It is a fact that these young men and women have not been able to weave themselves into the workforce to assist in the building of our country. We must therefore reach out to them in some meaningful and organized manner. The potential energy residing in over two hundred persons from just one village is far too much to be slighted.

What then is the solution?

The answer to this question does not present itself in wild generalizations; instead a specific study is needed of our local circumstances. Firstly, there must be a call for a reinvigorating of many of our despondent youth. In all societies there are persons who are self-motivators, and because of their socio-economic background may be able to advance themselves without much assistance of others. However, this is more the exception than the norm in the Vincentian scheme of things. There are some who must be encouraged and pushed towards a particular goal, and others who must be carefully cradled for a long period of time to achieve the same level of advancement. The fact remains that an investment in our youth who have fallen by the wayside so as to ensure that they are strategically weaved into the labor force is a bid to remove the dependency syndrome which presently exists for the most part. It is only when all individuals can take the responsibilities which are thrown at them by life and make them into personal successes which will in turn benefit the whole, that we will be able to speak of true independence as a civilization.

In light of the many challenges which we face, commendation must be given to the present Unity Labour Party administration for revolutionizing the manner in which education is administered in our country. Our nation’s education package has advanced remarkably in an extremely short space of time to the extent that the term “Education Revolution” does not inaccurately describe the Government’s efforts. The academically successful have been given a chance like never before in the history of the development of our country to attain the highest levels of learning. This is indeed a historic contribution second to none. However, the revolution must not end there. The revolution must be many-sided and dynamic. Concentration must not only be on preventing persons from being weeded out of the system, but also to ensure that those who were weeded out are carefully woven back into the fabric of the workforce. We must find creative ways and means which are not necessarily wholly dependant on the government to bring to the fore those who sit by the wayside and on the bridges on evenings by the twenties and thirties waiting in despair. It is noteworthy that if we as the Church, social groups, National Youth Council, National Youth Commission, the Government and the family fail to find a way to weave these persons into the labour force to be viable and legitimate helpers in the building of our society, then alternative means and modes of employment would present themselves very favorably. The prisons will be filled.

The population of our nation is by any measure extremely small. This makes it all the more necessary to ensure that all our human resources are properly harnessed. As a nation intending to move forward, a workforce with the necessary skills and knowledge to meet the changing demands of this century is paramount. These changes occur as the services sector replaces agriculture in most instances and the Caribbean Single Market and Economy with its host of implications for small island states appears imminent. A strategic policy framework for investing in the development of the human capital of our country is absolutely necessary.

The training must begin as early as possible. The nursery stage is where we must start. Skills in creativity, team building and similar social and adaptive skills should be added to the curriculum. Our students must become well-rounded individuals and government, learning, institutions and the private sector must discuss ways in which they can ensure that Vincentians receive the skills needed to meet national goals.

I will close with a most notable quote from our Prime Minister, Hon. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, that “The mind is a terrible thing to waste”.

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