The International Youth Foundation (IYF) is teaming up with the Gilbert Agricultural & Rural Development (GARD) Center, a leading NGO in Antigua and Barbuda, to improve the path to employment among the nation’s most disadvantaged youth. The program is part of the Caribbean Youth Empowerment Program (CYEP), funded through the US Agency for International Development/Barbados & the Eastern Caribbean office. The initiative will provide a range of opportunities in job training, entrepreneurship, and job placement to 165 unemployed or underemployed young people, ages 17 to 25. Two local partners of the GARD Center, the Directorate of Gender Affairs and the Antigua and Barbuda Institute for Continuing Education, are also involved in the project.  

In her keynote address at the launch event, Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro, Minister of Education, Sports, Youth & Gender Affairs, spoke about the challenges faced by Antiguan youth in terms of getting a good education and proper job training, and the importance of this project to address some of those challenges, with USAID’s and IYF’s support. Mr. James Goggin, USAID Representative, Barbados & Eastern Caribbean, expressed his gratitude to GARD for being an excellent partner in the delivery of this much needed initiative “that will give the youth of Antigua and Barbuda an opportunity to reach their dreams.”

Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States, Deborah Mae Lovell, and Roberta Williams, GARD Executive Director, also offered words of appreciation and underscored the value of the initiative. Two of the young people who attended the event spoke about the benefits of the training they had already received through CYEP.  

Program participants will benefit from technical skills training in several areas including plumbing, cosmetology, masonry, tractor driving, and ground maintenance.  Additional training will include life skills, job readiness, computer literacy, and business management. The course work will be complemented by an internship. A small stipend will be provided to trainees to help with transportation costs, and training graduates will be offered job placement services and follow-up mentoring opportunities. “Young people in every corner of the globe are facing huge challenges as they seek to find employment or start their own businesses,” says William S. Reese, President and CEO of IYF. “This program offers the kind of comprehensive approach that is needed to ensure these youth can succeed.”      

CYEP is a two-year US$1.5 million regional initiative that promotes youth employability in Grenada, Jamaica, as well as Antigua and Barbuda. It is the first award provided by Youth:Work, a global  program established in 2008 to assist USAID missions and bureaus to access IYF’s youth employability programs and expertise. IYF recently secured additional Youth:Work support for employability programs in Morocco and Jordan. CYEP is based upon entra21, an IYF initiative with the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) to expand successful job training and job placement programs among at-risk youth in Latin America and the Caribbean.