In the Caribbean, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism sector accounted for 50 percent of GDP and provided jobs for up to half of Caribbean workers, many of them young people. With governments instituting lockdowns and other measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Project proactively trained youth to become digital entrepreneurs. With these skills, young people will hopefully avoid becoming entrapped in the justice system. For those who have had contact with the justice system, they will gain skills to lead independent and productive lives.
Training in digital methods and processes among entrepreneurs is lacking across the region but is essential for business success in the current digital age. For entrepreneurs, especially young entrepreneurs, mentoring provides the proper guidance to develop the right attitudes towards employment, especially self-employment and the drive to pursue opportunities. The Digital Entrepreneurship Program combined these two elements- digital entrepreneurship and mentoring. The program was implemented by ‘Internet Income Jamaica’ and provided critical employment skills to youth in six Eastern Caribbean countries. Eighty-five young people, trained in two groups, completed a nine-week program, and have moved on to pursue their goals.
The program was very interactive and incorporated live training classes, group sessions, and training videos, which gave participants practical experiences using digital platforms. Special guests were also invited to share knowledge on various topics in the digital economy, focusing on their accomplishments in that industry. Participants also received actual job placements during the training period, for which their performances were assessed. A virtual graduation ceremony was held after the second and final group completed their training. During the ceremony, participants received certificates of completion, and the 10 most outstanding students received special recognition from the facilitators.
Christiana Paul hails from the “Nature Isle of the Caribbean,” The Commonwealth of Dominica stated,
"In my registration for this training, I highlighted a quote by Audrey Hepburn, ‘Opportunities don't come along often, so when they do seize them.” Christine went on to share her experience learning about operating a digital business. “Every journey, especially ones that have never been traversed before comes with challenges. The skills I have learnt to master in this training ranged from doing cold calls to creating e-book covers to transcription. I was amazed when my first gig order came in offering me not $5USD but $25USD! I struggled with some technical issues, but I pushed myself and was able to deliver on time. My first client left a 5-star rating and reordered the same gig a few days later.” This program has been a stepping stone to my success in the field of Digital Entrepreneurship and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
Another participant, Daniel Alexander hails from the island of St Vincent and Grenadines.
“I have always wanted to become an entrepreneur and I love interacting with technology, so this program created the perfect marriage between two. It opened my eyes to the many online jobs that exist where we can work in the comfort of our homes using just a computer. My main goal right now is to further my knowledge in the graphic design field and start a business as soon as possible where I will be providing the design services including printing of clothing, cups, paperwork etc. I will definitely recommend to others to participate in the training program if it’s launched again in my country.’’
Christine and Daniel are examples of the innovation and determination within Caribbean youth, who thrive with a little support to reach and attain their goals.
This training comes at a critical time as countries continue to grapple with the challenges of a pandemic that derailed economic growth. In the Eastern Caribbean many countries are facing grim projections for 2022. Against that backdrop, the Project is working with partners in the six Eastern Caribbean countries to respond to the needs of youth, particularly vulnerable youth. With sizeable youth populations in countries across the region, if youth have access to the assets they need to build their capabilities, and make contributions to their societies, then there’s hope these countries can move closer to achieving their sustainable development goals. The Juvenile Justice Reform Project is doing its part to make that a reality.