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A joint initiative between Youth Business T&T (YBTT) and the Ministry of National Security’s Citizen Security Programme to promote a culture of entrepreneurship among at risk youths is reaping positive rewards. Dale Laughlin, chair of YBTT, said last year her organisation devoted special attention to communities in which troubled teens reside by collaborating with the Government to facilitate the project in Enterprise, Chaguanas, Farm Road, St Joseph and Cocorite.
Under the programme, 100 residents were trained in life skills, financial planning and business plan development. In addition, entrepreneurs with viable business plans received further training in marketing, customer service and financial management, mentoring and seed funding to establish their small business.
Over the past year, she said, YBTT initiated several major projects that have extended the reach of its services to a wider cross-section of T&T’s youth. These services include provision of start-up capital at low interest rates, assignment of experienced volunteer business mentors—one to each entrepreneur, training and skill development opportunities and the networking events.
Laughlin said: “Sixty-two per cent of participants agreed that their income earning capacity had increased and 100 per cent of all participants agreed that the programme enabled them to see a more positive future, reporting that they had not been in conflict with the law since that start of the programme and indicating that their level of communication and interaction with others has been more positive. Twenty-one business plans were selected for funding–approximately $13,200. The Ministry of National Security has invited YBTT to implement the Youth Micro-Entrepreneurship Programme in three new CSP communities in 2015.”
She added: “Mentoring is another core component of YBTT’s mandate, as we believe that a successful mentoring programme can make a significant difference to the ability of young entrepreneurs to succeed in business and in particular, recognising that these young people would not otherwise have the opportunity to obtain quality relevant and timely advice and support.”
Speaking at the launch of a BGTT initiative with YBTT at the energy company’s hospitality suite at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port-of-Spain, Laughlin underscored the need to educate and empower young people with basic skills to manage their own businesses. She also spoke of the need for emerging entrepreneurs to be given psychological support in pursuit of success.
Laughlin said the local economy ran the risk of being negatively affected if the country failed to produce young entrepreneurs willing to take risks by venturing into new and innovative enterprises that could result in positive growth.
“We desperately need more people and young people in particular whose courage, confidence and capability are powered by their entrepreneurial mind set. Unless we are able to produce a cadre of young entrepreneurs who are willing to take calculated risks by venturing into new and innovative enterprises, and unless we create a vibrant start-up eco-system that nurtures and supports their entrepreneurship and innovation, our economy will be challenged to experience sustainable growth,” she said.
“This is not a problem unique to T&T. Youth unemployment and underemployment is a global challenge. We desperately need more people and young people in particular, whose courage, confidence and capability are powered by their entrepreneurial mind set. It takes strategic partnerships like that between BGTT and YBTT.
Our shared purpose over its duration will be to equip young entrepreneurs between the ages of 18-39 years with the support, resources, training and mentoring they need to start and run successful businesses.” The project celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2015 and Laughlin said the mission to help young people who would not otherwise have the opportunity,to fulfil their ambitions and contribute to the community through the medium of self-employment and development of their self-confidence remained YBTT’s focus.
She said the T&T leg of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) takes place in November, and will continue to celebrate innovators and job creators. “We at YBTT are putting out a call for more persons with business skills and experience to give back to our young entrepreneurs and their communities by registering as volunteers to YBTT’s Mentoring Programme.
“We invite them to join a cadre of global youth business incubator volunteers who are supporting young entrepreneurs to launch their start-ups and inspire them to believe and persist in their goals, notwithstanding the many difficulties and challenges they face,” Laughlin said.