One hundred unemployed Saint Lucian youth are poised to benefit following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Saint Lucia Hospitality and Tourism Association (SLHTA) and the Office of the National Authorising Officer (NAO).
The SLHTA is among seven institutions that will receive grants from the government of Saint Lucia, under an EC$16.8 million financing agreement between the government and the European Union (EU). The financing agreement is aimed at supporting the Generation of Employment through Private Sector Development (GEPSED) project, and seeks to enhance the employability skills of the youth by providing them with opportunities for training, apprenticeship and employment.
The MOU signing was held on Thursday, November 18, 2022 at the Ministry of Infrastructure, Union Complex, Union. In attendance at the historic event were EU Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean States H.E. Malgorzata Wasilewska, Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre, National Authorizing Officer Claudius Emmanuel and representatives of the various institutions.
The grant will be used to expand the SLHTA’s On-The-Job Training Programme and will fund inter alia mobilization efforts, orientation seminars, psychosocial counseling and stipends for trainees. SLHTA CEO Noorani Azeez described the signing as a watershed, since it is the first time in the SLHTA’s sixty-year history that the Association has received a grant of this nature. The grant, he said, signals a show of confidence of the NAO’s office in the capacity of the private sector to play a key role in the development of our nation’s human resources.
Pointing to the ongoing on-the-job training programme, the CEO indicated: “This financing now allows us to ramp the numbers up from thirty-four to one hundred young people! These are individuals who possibly before have never had an opportunity to explore careers in the industry. So the ability to find themselves within the hospitality industry, and play their part in a sector that contributes close to 60% of the GDP of our country, is a very privileged accolade. To be able to work along with them and provide that experience for them is really an exceptional opportunity for the SLHTA.”
Under the programme, participants receive training at hotels and restaurants around the island in addition to Customer Service and Personal Development training. Azeez is confident that the programme will continue to expand and provide even more opportunities for the youth. “Inasmuch as we are looking at targeting one hundred persons before the end of November, we believe that our slate of success will put us in a very coveted position to access even more financing to train even more persons going forward. Ideally, we would like to look at possibly 6-800 persons per year.”
Ambassador Wasilewska said that the EU has always placed a significant importance on its longstanding partnership with the government and people of Saint Lucia. She stated that the EU member states are big fans of vocational training, describing it as a “driving force of sustainable development in modern economies.”
Said the Ambassador: “I’m very excited to be here for the signing ceremony. Society is gradually coming to terms with how important vocational training is…We are very excited to join forces with the government of Saint Lucia in support of the reform of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training landscape in the country. Given the vulnerabilities and the fragility Saint Lucia is continually exposed to, the improved alignment of education, training and exposure to experience in the labour market is imperative. Therefore, we’re very excited to have several training institutions partnering with the private sector to create more opportunities…I really hope that this helps as many young people as possible!”
Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre stressed that an environment must be created where more of the tourism dollar remains in Saint Lucia. Ensuring that the labour force is made up of as many Saint Lucians is critical to achieving that goal, he noted. Said Pierre: “This is why training is so important. We are going to be training young Saint Lucians to give them the necessary skills so that they can produce.”
He continued: “The problem of unemployment is a scourge that affects all of us. The scourge of social upheaval and the problems of crime will follow us if we do not find a way to engage our young people; find a way to get them meaningfully employed. I am very pleased and very excited to be here this morning. I think it’s a step in the right direction when the government and the private sector can work together! We have to have a workforce that is flexible and capable, and a country where the problems of crime are reduced.”