An employment agency has been engaged by the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government to keep youths engaged in the Imani Programme, according to Youth and Sports Minister Roland Bhola.
Speaking at the weekly post-Cabinet press conference on Tuesday, Minister Bhola identified the outfit as HOPE, which is known as Helping Our People Excel.
HOPE has been described as both a training and employment agency, tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that youths have something to do after they have finished their two years expectancy service.
According to Minister Bhola, the arrangement with the agency was supposed to begin in April but had to be pushed back to October.
“We’re still working out some of the finer details. It was our hope that by April of this year we might have been able to start fully with that relationship, where the HOPE agency will be the one after your two years of training … will then take them on and would provide them with continued training but at the same time assist in finding permanent places of employment for them”, he said.
“…The date has been pushed back to the first of October and we do have the legal team and others working along with the Board of HOPE ensuring that we cross all T’s and dot all I’s, making sure that that agency can deliver for us the services that we expect them to deliver and that we do not get into an arrangement and down the road we recognise this thing is falling apart,” he added.
The senior government minister pointed out that it is not government’s intention to have the youth return home with nothing to do after the two-year stint.
“What we want to do (in) the final analysis is ensure that we continue to engage our young people. We have since engaged 3, 000 of them. We do not think as a government it makes good sense after two years that you have them back on the street without anything to do…”, he said.
“…We want you (the youth) to continue to progress and move forward and that is why we have engaged the HOPE agency because government in itself has limitations in terms of the numbers we can employ; not just because of the Structural Adjustment Programme but at any given time government cannot provide employment for everyone but we are seeking a pathway to ensure that people can continue to be gainfully employed or engaged,” he added.
Minister Bhola addressed the control mechanism that was put in place by government to ensure that Imanis who did not show up for their engagement did not take advantage of the financial resources of the tax-paying public.
He said: “You (the Imani) are expected to attend session on a weekly basis and (if) there has been 10 consecutive days that you would have missed out without bringing an adequate report or reason…they would deactivate you from the programme.
“…It is a control measure that we have so no one sits at home, limes on the block and then at the end of the month collects the resources which comes from the people,” he added.
The Imani programme is the major initiative introduced by the NNP administration to tackle high youth unemployment in the country.
Grenada is said to have the highest level of youth unemployment in the sub-regional Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).