Reflections on career enhancing life skills and mentorship in the Caribbean
By Max Anthony Tanic
Coming from the French Caribbean Island of Martinique, and growing up on the small commonwealth island of Saint Lucia, I was exposed to challenges faced by young people from two different settings in the Caribbean. Whether it was the influence of the French or the English, the young people ended up encountering the same difficulties and challenges in discovering what their next step in life would be after high school. I came to realize that most of the young people around me were comfortable in their current situation and therefore did not look for opportunities to forward their futures or careers.
A Career Center would be a great resource for the governments of small island developing states in the Caribbean to offer young people dealing with the difficulties of obtaining a career. A Career Center would provide much needed services such as career enhancing life skills, job search resources, academic exam preparation, finding career and/or academic mentors, scholarship opportunities, step by step advisors, university opportunities and more under one roof. This would encourage young people to broaden their expectations and seek greater opportunities for their futures. It would be a great way to impact the entire population by reaching out and inviting young people to provide insights on what their next step could be. The center would help young people to realize that their voices matter and that they can play a role in shaping their own futures. The main focus of the career center would be on creating a program of mentorship that would provide guidance to students directly out of high school, even if the individuals do not have a clear idea for his or her future. It would provide direction for young people to understand the importance of stability and learn to empower themselves.
Young people who are interested in sports, do not get the support and financial aid they need from the government to help them reach a competitive professional level. Athletes who do try to reach a professional level usually end up being funded privately by their parents, which puts a strain on anyone having to compete with government funded opponents from other countries. There are many great sportsmen who are not able to show the world their true potential due to a lack of funding. These athletes tend to be passionate about their sports but grow out of it over time when the funding and aid isn’t there
In Martinique, even though there is a better system (than those in the other Eastern Caribbean countries) in place to assist young people in finding opportunities for advancement after they graduate secondary school, the young adults there still face difficulties, such as continuing their studies in France; their mother country. The exam selection process in Martinique only allows a small number of participants to advance their studies abroad compared to the amount of participants taking the exam. Martinique has had more rapid development than St. Lucia by being a part of the powerful economy of France, but Martinique only has two universities on the island.
Young people are faced with many barriers to further their education, but when young people are empowered and are given the right opportunities, they become drivers for their communities. More opportunities should exist for young people to participate in decisions on the issues affecting them and to strengthen their abilities to further their own skills development for their futures. For example, young people can become engaged in helping shape decision-making around issues such as healthcare, education, and more, if they are offered more opportunities to gain in-depth knowledge in these areas.
Men usually get certain guidance from the female influences in their lives, beginning at home with their mothers, sisters and friends. Being surrounded by their mothers’ moral values and power from a young age forms young boys into organized, ambitious young men. Seeing these women in even higher positions of power would positively influence the self-esteem of both boys and girls, giving them the strength to push themselves even more in the workforce. For the younger generations, having women as equals allows for more opportunities for a higher earning capacity for families, which would create happier relationships and happier families. Growing up on our small islands, women are given opportunities to work in powerful positions, which a majority of the time, creates great results in the end.
Young women should be properly guided from a young age, inspiring them to acquire a higher level of education. In poorer countries in the Caribbean, young women who do not go on to higher education or try for a career, either marry into abusive controlling relationships or settle for jobs that are less than they deserve. Women are faced with many more barriers than men today, but they play an important role in and contribute to the productivity of their families, communities, and to the prospects of the next generation.
Many communities still need to be developed, yet they do not remain on the priority list of government interests for community development. Many small islands thrive off of tourism and the government tends to focus their attention on tourist attraction areas, which leaves the small communities woefully underdeveloped. If volunteer programs were reinforced and encouraged with support from the government, civil society, and the private sector, this would allow young people to continuously develop the communities around them. Beginning in high school and continuing onwards, young people would be allowed opportunities to grow and develop which will later allow them to thrive as empowered adults. Volunteer work opportunities and academic courses that build young people’s knowledge for use in future projects and provide them with information on how to further their career skills, would allow young people to learn those skills and earn higher positions through knowledge and practice. This would give them eligibility for scholarship openings and the opportunities to find good jobs.
Through it all, volunteer work would keep young people occupied by performing skilled work rather than being on the streets, which oftentimes leads them in the wrong direction. Creating openings for young people to participate in debate programs would allow them to engage in and feel like they have a say in their communities or even their country as a whole. Skills development is very important in every community, as there is a need for society to continuously grow and expand.
In the Caribbean, there is a lack of skills training for young people such as instruction in public speaking, organization, and the principles of team-work. These three skills are important in developing self-worth and improving local communities.
Providing young people with the ability to attend foreign language exchange programs at a young age would allow them to have insight on different cultures for future business ventures. Students who travel and learn different languages benefit later on in life by being able to gain jobs without the hindrance language barriers can cause when working in different parts of the world.
In the end, we should foster these programs so our future generations will be able to have the power to make positive changes and have successful futures allowing young people to serve as drivers for change. Having a more professional and educated youth population will create a greater development rate for the world, creating jobs and bringing down the percentage of poverty worldwide.
My name is Max Tanic and I am writing a column on youth engagement, entrepreneurship, and career enhancing life skills for the Aspire Artemis Foundation. I will be highlighting the authentic experiences of youth from underserved communities starting with those from my own region. If you have a story to share, I would love the opportunity to speak with you. You can reach me at Max.firstname.lastname@example.org