barbados flagBARBADOS
Govern Ment of Barbados Ministry of Labour

  • Thursday January 18, 2018 01:45:46 am
users Additional Features
Tip of the day

See information on "labour laws", "health and safety" regulations in the workplace and more.

News - Youth Employment and its Importance to the Ministry
print friendly e-mail this page

Labour News.

Youth Employment and its Importance to the Ministry



With the advent of the global economic crisis, the debate surrounding the employment of youth in Barbados has once again been brought to the fore.  Throughout 2010, several advanced and developing economies alike continued to experience the adverse effects of the crisis, resulting in declines world output, world trade and global employment. Barbados, as a small open developing economy, has not been immune from the effects of this crisis. Indeed, the crisis has resulted in Barbados experiencing contractions in key macro-economic indicators such as export levels and foreign exchange reserves.  Other significant developments which have impacted on the local economic landscape include:

  • A reduction in the sugar receipts due to significant price cuts
  • Rising oil prices in the international market and…….
  • A challenging fiscal deficit

Of critical interest was the fact that at the end of September 2010, the unemployment rate had risen to around 11.2%, notably higher that the 8.1% rate recorded for 2008.


Against the backdrop of the sobering above-mentioned economic factors, are the serious issues currently affecting the youth, particularly as they seek to enter the workforce. These include the lack of certification, the lack of work experience, attitudes to work, current literacy and numeracy levels and the limited scope for the pursuit of career opportunities in non-traditional areas like sports and culture. 

These developments are not unique to Barbados and are covered in significant detail in documents like the I.L.O publication “Global Employment Trends for Youth: A special Issue on the Impact of the Global Economic Crisis on Youth”

To compound matters, a review of some statistics underscores the problems faced by the youth as they seek to enter the labour market. For instance, a brief comparison of the youth unemployment rate during the timeframe 1999 to 2009 reveals that the rate has been trending upwards, steadily increasing from 21.95% in 1999, to 24.6% for 2009. 

One trend that is of particularly concern pertains to the significant gender imbalances currently existing at some of the island’s premier tertiary institutions.  A perusal of the gender composition of two of these institutions has revealed that around 30% of enrollments at these institutions were males. In other words, for every one male attending these tertiary institutions, there were over two females in attendance. The Ministry therefore is of the opinion that tangible action is necessary to ensure that young males seize every available opportunity to facilitate their self-development by obtaining a tertiary level education, whether through academic programmes or through technical and vocational courses of study.


Though the above-mentioned issues are challenging, the Government of Barbados will work assiduously to ensure that they are tackled in an organised, methodical and systematic manner. Specifically, the Ministry of Labour will place a critical focus on skills development as a prime solution to the empowerment of youth in Barbados.

The Ministry is in total agreement with the statement that finding employment for young people is a critical priority. But, in equal measure, is the need to address the supply side of the equation. It is vital that young people be equipped with the skills- sets, competencies and work experience necessary, in order to ensure that they can compete in the workforce. The reality is that in this increasingly competitive labour market, those individuals that do not have any meaningful skills sets to offer employers will have to:



  • deal with lengthy spells of unemployment or………


  • find themselves confined to basic, elementary, repetitive, low-paying jobs that will not contribute to their meaningful, long term development


Therefore skills development MUST be a paramount objective for the youth.  They must possess a skill that employers are demanding or that they can use to engage in self employment.   Young people must understand that the labour market is like any other existing market, where sellers can only sell what is being demanded by buyers. This is a fact that is particularly applicable to any functioning labour market, as employers will only solicit a worker’s services if that worker has a skill or some specialised knowledge that will be of benefit to the employer’s business. Therefore, dialogue must take place about skills development and the enhancement of labour supply IN CONJUNCTION WITH identifying significant employment opportunities for the youth.



In light of the several challenges that have been mentioned, one may logically query what steps are being taken by government to address some of these challenges.   Meaningful solutions to these challenges will require a multi-faceted response, not just from relevant government ministries but from the private sector, unions and civil society, with all parties consulting and appraising each other of what actions, plans and strategies they will implement to tackle the youth employment issue.

Internships and job attachments to public and private sector workplaces, so that the youth can acquire valuable experience is a critical step. A second example that can easily be cited concerns the need of the public and private sector to share relevant and timely labour market information to young persons, particularly information pertaining to the future occupational and skills sets being demanded by employers in industry. The Ministry of Labour has readily acknowledged the need to partner with the private sector to provide this type of information to the public and to date has sought to collect such information for the Tourism, Agricultural, Manufacturing, International Business and Cultural Industries. With access to such information, young people would be better informed and empowered to make key career related decisions on occupations that would be in demand over the short to medium term.


Issues pertaining to workforce development, the provision of vocational training and the sourcing of local and overseas employment opportunities are key aspects of the Ministry of Labour’s work-programme and are key components of the work of three of the Ministry’s satellites. These can ideally be placed at the nucleus of the drive to facilitate and promote youth employment. These satellites are the TVET Council, the Barbados Vocational Training Board and the National Employment Bureau.


The Barbados Vocational Training Board (B.V.T.B)

At the Ministry, the provision of training opportunities for young persons remains a priority issue and through the Barbados Vocational Training Board, the Ministry endeavours to continuously enhance the quality and expand the range of its training courses and programmes. Care is taken to ensure that these courses and programmes are up-to-date and responsive to the needs of the labour market through the formation and expansion of smart-partnerships with employers in industry. The training courses offered by the Board are divided into four main programme areas:



  • Apprenticeship
  • Skills Training
  • In-Plant Training
  • Evening Programmes

In addition to already established programmes, the Board intends to introduce new courses in a diverse array of areas, ranging from Dry Wall Technology to Early Childhood Education. Moreover, the Board has recently introduced a Cosmetology programme, with the ultimate intention of having students placed in Hairdressing salons and spas so that they can gain valuable work experience.


In terms of future initiatives, the Board is giving active consideration to the restructuring and expansion of its autotronics programme and is desirous of establishing a shipboard firefighting simulator model to facilitate maritime training at sea for current and prospective seafearers. Moreover, in light of the heavy focus that needs to be placed on the creation of a facilitating environment for young entrepreneurs, another initiative of the Board is the provision of training in entrepreneurship through the establishment of an entrepreneurship centre.

Conscious of the need to advertise and promote course offerings to the youth, the Board has devised a number of initiatives to accomplish this goal. One such initiative includes the Summer Skills “Learn a living programme” where secondary school students can visit training centres throughout the island to receive information on programmes in which they have an interest.  Armed with such information, they can then make more informed decisions as to whether they wish to consider specific course offerings as viable career options.

Not only can the Board supply young persons with viable career opportunities in vocational education, but the Board is the ideal mechanism for the provision of second chance opportunities for those who are desirous of furthering themselves, but who have not satisfactorily completed their secondary education.



The acquisition of certification that is recognised locally, regionally and extra-regionally is also a challenge for the youth, particularly in those occupations where the acquisition of a skill has been by way of on-the-job-training. The reality is that in today’s world, employers will increasingly place emphasis on requisite certification, as they wish to have tangible assurance that the employees they hire do indeed possess the skills-sets that they profess to have.  The Ministry is cogniscant of the fact that because of this trend, workers such as skilled craftsmen may increasingly find themselves marginalized at the workplace. To counter this challenge, the TVET Council, in conjunction with employers in industry, has placed a critical focus on the development of National and Caribbean Vocational qualifications that cater to the needs of uncertified workers. Such qualifications essentially require that a worker demonstrate their competency to perform specific tasks and duties associated with a particular occupation and to date, the TVET Council has developed N/CVQs in areas such as Occupational Safety and Health, Customer Service, Amenity Horticulture and Bar Service. Moreover, the Council is actively seeking to develop N/CVQs in additional areas such as Business Administration, Human Resource Management and Information and Communications Technology.


One of the services offered by the National Employment Bureau pertains to the sourcing of local and overseas employment opportunities for Barbadian workers. In recent times, some success has been realised in the achievement of this goal.  However, there is one inescapable requirement that underscores all prospective employers who express an interest in acquiring Job Seekers.  These employers almost always insist that any prospective employees that they hire must have previous work experience. They are not requesting inexperienced, unskilled persons that they have to train “from scratch” This is an inescapable reality that is not likely to change in the near future and it must be communicated to young persons that requisite skills and experience are two important attributes that will serve them well as they seek to enter the labour market.

In conclusion, the problems affecting the youth are of serious concern to the Labour Ministry and such problems will continue to receive the Ministry’s urgent attention. The Ministry of Labour would however advocate that young people strive to commit themselves to lifelong learning and to continuously research their chosen profession, to ensure that they are apprised of any new technological developments that may arise. 

The Ministry is of the view that young people have a vital contribution to make towards the socio-economic development of Barbados and the Ministry will play its part in ensuring that young persons are provided with every available opportunity to realise their employment related goals, as they seek to make a better life for themselves.

Published: Wednesday, 16th March, 2011


Jobseeker or Employer

RegisterReset Password

Join Our Mailing List:


News Scroller

HIV/AIDS in the workplace












3rd Floor West, Warrens Office Complex, Warrens, St. Michael, Barbados | Tel: (246) 535-1400 | Fax: (246) 535-1573 | E-Mail: