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Education ministry working with OAS to establish youth innovation centres

Sunday, January 21, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information is moving to transform its 11 youth information centres (YIC) across the island into innovation centres, as part of plans to foster entrepreneurship among young people in Jamaica.

State Minister Floyd Green, says that the rebranding is being done through partnership with the Organization of American States (OAS) under its Democratizing Innovation in the Americas (DIA) Lab Project.

Launched in Jamaica in July 2017, the DIA Lab Project equips urban youth to be innovators by training them in cutting-edge technologies and giving them the tools necessary to transform their communities.

It targets young people, ages 16 to 30, particularly in vulnerable communities, with the hope of transforming them into critical, creative and innovative thinkers.

The YICs, which provide free access to the internet, serve as a focal point for the dissemination of information on youth issues and programmes including educational training opportunities.
Green notes that the DIA lab concept is well aligned with the ministry's vision for the youth centres.

“There are clearly similarities in what we want to do and what the OAS has been doing across the Americas in relation to their innovation labs, which has the same sort of focus on entrepreneurship and other things in terms of programming,” he says.

“It has the same outlook in terms of partnering with expert personnel to help train the young people so that they can do business plans and pitches, so that they can put together the documents that are needed to go out and seek funding,” he notes further.

“As such, we've started the discussion with the OAS to see how we can align what we have planned with what they have done, and benefit from their expertise to see how we can merge ideas and expand our concept,” he explains.

Green says that plans were already underway to launch a pilot in three centres across the parishes of St James, Clarendon and St Catherine early this year.

The pilot phase will be used to test and develop the model that will be rolled out in the various centres.

Green notes that the rebranding will involve putting in additional personnel, such as persons with business training, who can help the young people, who have business ideas.

“It would call for additional human resource personnel in the space and also additional equipment to help our young people, who are interested in business,” he adds.

In terms of the next steps, the state minister says the ministry and the OAS will formalise a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will set out the different roles that each entity will play.

“This is especially in relation to see how we could jointly go out and source some funding… so we can have a more substantial expansion and probably, we can move the rest of the centres in a quicker time frame,” Green states.

He says the hope is that in the next two years “we will roll out into all centres and if we can get an even firmer relationship with the OAS, then we will be able to cut that time.”

YICs offer a wide range of services to young people. However, in the main, the services offered tend to be centred on career development, the promotion of healthy (sexual) lifestyles and personal empowerment.

Green says that the rebranding will include having a standardised programme for the YICs. He points out that the activities offered are largely set by the youth empowerment officers, who manage the facilities.

“One of the things we decided that we want to do was to standardise the programmes as far as possible to ensure that at least we could say that there is one flagship programme, which is offered across all the centres so that a person knows that if they are looking for 'X' they can find it in the youth centres,” he explains.

For more information about the project persons can contact the ministry's Youth Division at 922 – 1400.

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