Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Youth, the Honourable Shawn Richards answers questions during the Nov. 28 Second Annual Minister’s Youth Forum.

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — Opportunities for young entrepreneurs to succeed in business, the construction of an ultra-modern Basseterre High School (BHS), and available support for career choices of young people were on the minds of young people in St. Kitts and Nevis attending the Nov. 28 Second Annual Minister’s Youth Forum.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Youth, the Honourable Shawn Richards addressed these issues for the more than 100 youth from all walks of life, who participated in the interactive forum, held as part of Youth Month 2018.

On the matter relating to youth-led businesses, Richards noted the recent launch of the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC), formerly known as the National Entrepreneurial Development Division (NEDD). The government unit offers enhanced training and support methods for entrepreneurs and also monitors and tracks various economic trends.

The SBDC and the Department of Youth Empowerment have very close ties, and Minister of Commerce and Industry, the Honourable Lindsay Grant has said the focus of the Centre will be on “positively impacting the lives of young and new entrepreneurs, the small businesspeople and ultimately the Federation’s economic fortunes.”

Richards noted that the Department of Youth Empowerment’s business training model was also being reviewed in order to strengthen its functioning and impact.

“Plans are well underway for the construction of the new Basseterre High School,” Richards said. His announcement was met with applause from the youths in the room, including some BHS students.

Richards referred to his recent Facebook post that showed the clearing of the site for the new state-of-the-art school, as well as an artist rendering of the facility. He said that he expects construction to begin in the first half of 2019.

The deputy prime minister then segued to a number of progressive reforms taking place within the education system. He cited the $20 million investment made by government towards enhancing the technical and vocational education training in public secondary schools. The aim is to help young people to meet the demands for skilled labour in the local and regional marketplace.

During the forum, Richards said there has been increased participation of local youth at regional and international meetings and conferences. They also have taken advantage of international scholarships. The minister mentioned the government is committed to facilitating more developmental opportunities for creative artists, and promoting volunteerism.

At the end of the forum, Richards said the session was extremely useful, as it allowed the leadership of the Department of Youth Empowerment and the Ministry of Youth to hear the concerns of youth, gain feedback on the department’s programmes and initiatives, and highlight existing opportunities for youth development.

“In that respect, I would say the event was a success,” Richards said. He commented that he had “a lot to ponder” coming out of the productive forum and reiterated he remained committed to improving the situation of all youth in St. Kitts and Nevis.