Laying the Groundwork for Success
3 ways USAID is helping build entrepreneurial skills in young people in the eastern and southern Caribbean
There’s no question: times are tough. Jobs can be hard to come by, especially now, with COVID-19 causing unprecedented damage to economies around the world. Young people are among those who bear the brunt of economic challenges. Oftentimes, they fall prey to criminal activity — such as gang affiliation, drug trafficking, and other risky behaviors — which can seem to be the only way to make ends meet.
At USAID, we believe in fostering the creativity and ambition of young people throughout the eastern and southern Caribbean. Working together with local governments, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations, we seek to help these youth reach their full potential. Here are three ways that USAID has helped young men and women in the region grow their entrepreneurial skills, enabling them to lay the groundwork for a bright and prosperous future for themselves and their families.
Teaching tech to compete in a 21st century economy
USAID and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States have partnered to train youth to create and operate successful online businesses. Through eight weeks of online courses and group work, we’re helping participants learn how to use computer programs and successfully leverage the internet. We’re also providing courses in graphic design, search engine optimization, voice acting, virtual assistance, and social media marketing, among other relevant skills. Accountability coaches are on hand to guide the students and help them navigate the courses.
Helping young men use their talents for good
At-risk young men in the Caribbean are particularly susceptible to being marginalized if the educational system does not meet their academic and psychosocial needs. Under the Teach a Boy project, USAID is working with the Advancement for Children Foundation of St. Kitts & Nevis and other organizations to train young men in St. Kitts to produce and market artisan products and authentic local experiences, such as tours. The program offers a holistic approach to help these at-risk youth find lucrative and legal alternatives to crime and violence.
Catching the most vulnerable before they’re lost
From 2011–2016, USAID provided education, skill-building, and employment or entrepreneurial opportunities to youth in Guyana who were un- or under-employed, had minimal or incomplete formal education, were from hotspot communities known for crime, or were involved in the juvenile justice system.
Building upon the young participants’ strengths, USAID provided literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship training, along with coaching for youth between the ages of 15–24. Over the life of the project, USAID trained hundreds of young people in the principles of entrepreneurship and provided small business start-up kits for 170 youth. Youth businesses included a document & fabric printing center, a chowmein (noodle) manufacturing facility, a honey-bottling business, an ice-cream parlor, and a hair and skin care salon. Importantly, although USAID’s involvement has come to an end, one of the project leaders began a new organization that now provides youth training, mentorship, job placement and business start-up services to Guyanese youth.
These are just a few ways that USAID has invested in the youth of the eastern and southern Caribbean, because we know that, given a chance, they can shine.
We think Patrice Matthew, who works with us on the Teach a Boy project, sums it up best:
“The youth are our future. [Just] because someone stumbles and loses their way, that doesn’t mean they are lost forever. They just need a little help. Help that will enable them to tap into their creative minds to produce something out of nothing.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself, and as director of USAID’s Eastern and Southern Caribbean Mission, I’m committed to doing just that.
As part of USAID’s Neighbors, Partners, Friends campaign, we are celebrating young leaders, civil society, and private and public sector actors who are helping to support and empower Caribbean communities. Read more about our work.
About the Author
Clinton White is the Director of USAID’s Eastern and Southern Caribbean Mission.