USAID And Ministry Of Education Celebrate Milestone In Boosting Youth Employment And Entrepreneurship Through ‘Ignite’ Project

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St. Lucia

– The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Youth Resilience, Inclusion and Empowerment (Y-RIE) Program and the Ministry of Education, hosted a ceremony on Thursday, June 20, at the Orchid Centre, Union, Castries, to celebrate the achievements of 45 youth participants who completed the “Getting Ready” phase of the Ignite Project.

The Ignite Project, initiated in March, works to equip program participants aged 16-25 from Anse la Raye and Gros Islet with vital entrepreneurial competencies and workplace readiness skills to reshape their futures. The project addresses the immediate need for workforce development among young people and lays the groundwork for a more equitable and inclusive education system and enhanced economic pathways for young Saint Lucians, which aligns with the Ministry’s Education Sector Development Plan goals and the national vision for increased youth contributions to the economy for inclusive and sustainable economic growth. The partnership between USAID Y-RIE and the Ministry demonstrates USAID’s unwavering dedication to fostering opportunities for growth, development, and positive economic participation. The project’s first phase, Getting Ready, offered foundational life and employability skills, business exposure, coaching, and psychosocial support. This phase prepared youth participants for the realities of entrepreneurship and employment opportunities. The psychosocial support component was offered in partnership with the St. Lucia Crisis Centre.

The Recognition Ceremony featured remarks from the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Senator the Honourable Dr. Pauline Antoine-Prospere, on behalf of the Minister, Mercreanne Charles-Modeste, Head of NELU, and Phelps Feeley, Chief of Party (COP), Y-RIE.

In addition to the Ministry, NELU, and Ignite team, the Y-RIE COP thanked the public and private sector, notably LUCELEC, B&B Money Savers, Johnsons Hardware, the National Printing Corporation, the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force Community Relations branch, and Automotive Art for their immense support which included tools and equipment for graduates. “Most importantly, however, I want to recognize and celebrate the Ignite participants for making a commitment to their futures, their potential, their families and communities by dedicating themselves to this program. This is your opportunity and you’ve taken it.”, she emphasized.

The event also included performances by local cultural groups and testimonials from participants. Ajani Lebourne, Y-RIE Program Manager, presented the project’s highlights, showcasing its impact and success. The ceremony concluded with an awards and recognition segment, where participants received Certificates of Completion, Economic Entry Pathways, and special awards, celebrating their achievements and dedication.

Following the training, participants will be supported in transitioning to job internships and job placements facilitated by local businesses, continuous coaching, and an entrepreneurship boot camp conducted by the James Belgrave Microenterprise Development Fund (BELfund) or pursuing TVET courses at the NELU. Concepts and businesses completing the entrepreneurship boot camp will qualify for small business grants and BELfund’s business support program for up to one year.

This activity builds on several successful collaborations and activities between Y-RIE and the Government. Earlier in the year, Y-RIE, alongside the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports, embarked on a program to design and deliver CVQ Level II Youth Development Work training to its youth workers. In addition, Y-RIE partnered with the Saint Lucia Social Development Fund to deliver a Community ReEntry Program.

The USAID Y-RIE program was formally launched in Saint Lucia in February 2023. Y-RIE is working with government and non-government partners to strengthen social services that serve youth and their families, improve learning outcomes for youth, improve youth preparedness for the world-of-work, and strengthen the resilience of families and communities.

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