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Youth Skills for Economic Growth in the Eastern Caribbean

Department for International Development | Published October 22, 2016  -  Deadline November 21, 2016

The Youth Skills for Economic Growth in the Eastern Caribbean Programme was approved in February 2016. The programme was designed following a process of conceptualisation and business case development, which was partially informed by 2 market engagement rounds held in 2015, which provided inputs from potential suppliers on the programme contents and approach and possible contracting methods. The Business Case for the programme sets outs the rationale and basic outline of the programme, to be fully designed and implemented by a supplier under a design and implementation contract. The programme responds to needs identified by government, private sector and NGO contacts during DFID Caribbean's scoping visits in the Eastern Caribbean in 2014. The programme also helps deliver on the commitment to provide 30 000 000 GBP of new economic development programming for the Caribbean, which was announced as part of a 360 000 000 GBP development assistance commitment made by the UK Prime Minister's visit to the region in September 2015. The programme covers 4 of DFID Caribbean's 8 focus countries — 4 of the poorest Eastern Caribbean countries, where the needs on skills are particularly high, where the economic structures are more similar, and where the options for development support to fill the gaps are more limited. The programme is responding to the problems of low growth and high unemployment in the Caribbean, particularly among youth. Growth rates in the Caribbean have been very low for decades, and in more recent times following the global economic crisis, growth rates have been generally negative or marginally positive. Youth unemployment in the Eastern Caribbean is very high, in many cases about twice the overall unemployment rate and among the highest in the world, with rates of between 34 and 42 %. Many young people in the Caribbean face a very challenging transition from school to work, and can face years of unemployment or underemployment. High youth unemployment represents lost potential contributions to economic development, and is also associated with a higher risk of involvement in violence and crime, especially among young men. Inadequate skill development is seen as a barrier to growth and employment in the Caribbean. There are ‘skills gaps’ in the Caribbean workforce which impede productivity and innovation, and constrain the ability of firms to enter new sectors, to grow and to create employment. Despite relatively high levels of investment in education and basic education access, there are issues in the quality of education, and there is a ‘mismatch’ between the outputs of the education system and the requirements of the labour market. Employers in the region cite the lack of skills as a major constraint to investment, growth and competitiveness. The programme also takes due account of the social dimensions of the skills problem in the Caribbean context — poverty, gender and disability. National poverty rates in the Eastern Caribbean are relatively high, and young people are over-represented among the poor. Inequality is also a major challenge in the Caribbean context. Poverty is linked to education and skills in 2 directions. Persons from poor or disadvantaged households are more likely to lack skills for a variety of reasons (e.g. early school drop-out for economic reasons, limited parental involvement in education and inability to afford training outside of school system). Lack of skills contributes to unemployment which in turn can lead to poverty.

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