World Bank Supports Investment In Youth Skills And Innovation In OECS Countries

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Washington, D.C. – The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved a new project to promote transversal and advanced technical skills among youth, strengthen regional cooperation in post-secondary education, and foster collaborative innovation within Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Member states.

The OECS Skills and Innovation Project provides $36 million to Grenada, Saint Lucia and the OECS Commission for investments in post-secondary education and innovation, and will benefit over 40,000 youth in post-secondary institutions and at least 120 entrepreneurs and firms in the OECS region over the next five years.

Skills shortages in the OECS contribute to high youth unemployment, reduced productivity, and lower business competitiveness. Children born in the OECS may only reach 53 to 60 percent of their productivity potential, primarily due to low-quality education, according to the World Bank’s Human Capital Index. Post-secondary education quality suffers due to inadequate investment and limited capacity. Lack of essential skills among graduates also hampers firms’ engagement in innovative activities. Only around 14 percent of firms in Grenada and Saint Lucia introduce new or improved goods or services to the market, due mainly to lack of skills for innovation (including managerial and entrepreneurial skills) and to an underdeveloped innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in the OECS.

To support OECS countries in addressing these challenges, and make the education systems more robust and responsive, the new World Bank project will support the development of an overarching regional strategic framework for post-secondary education, design mechanisms to enhance collaboration among OECS Member States on post-secondary education, as well as improve the quality and collection of post-secondary data at the regional level.

The project will also finance the creation of a Knowledge, Technology, and Innovation Platform to encourage knowledge exchanges, networking, and collaboration in innovation activities among post-secondary education institutions, entrepreneurs, firms, and the diaspora, among others. In Grenada and Saint Lucia, the project is also expected to mobilize private capital by co-financing innovation projects between entrepreneurs and scholars through competitive matching grants. To boost inclusion and environmental sustainability, the project will actively encourage the leadership and involvement of women as well as initiatives that contribute to the private sector’s climate action.

National colleges and select post-secondary institutions in Grenada and Saint Lucia will further benefit from improvements to their institutional capacity and learning environments as well as assistance to strengthen the teaching of advanced technical skills in prioritized sectors and integration of transversal skills, such as communication, critical thinking and adaptability, which are increasingly demanded in the OECS labor market and beyond.

“By implementing strategic reforms and fostering collaborative innovation, OECS member states are laying the groundwork for a more competitive workforce and economy. Our commitment is to create a regional framework that enhances educational opportunities and cultivates a spirit of collaboration and innovation across the region,” said Lilia Burunciuc, World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean. 

The OECS Skills Project amounts to $36 million financed through the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), with a $30 million credit to support Grenada and Saint Lucia, and $6 million in grants for the OECS Commission. IDA credits are a zero to low-interest loan mechanism designed to boost economic growth, reduce inequalities and improve living conditions.

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