The Government has made its intentions known on tackling youth unemployment. The 2021 Throne Speech lacked details, so I was not surprised by the vagueness on how the Government intends to reach this objective. However, I was given a bit of hope by the National Youth Policy produced by the Ministry of Youth and Sport, along with the commencement of recruiting a working group to create a detailed plan of action.
I note that the emphasis of this strategy is on tailoring and preparing young people for in-demand jobs currently available in Bermuda, whereas arts and culture are sprinkled in the document sporadically.
I am happy that our athletes are finally getting the recognition they deserve and an apparent increase in funding support, but I believe we need to do the same for local artists.
Will this new strategy primarily benefit youth who are aspiring lawyers, accountants and those who want to pursue careers in international business, or will it include those who are aspiring to thrive and build a career in creative occupations as well.
Bermudian entrepreneurs and creatives both before and during my time, have been trying their best to establish an entertainment industry in Bermuda. We have a large segment of our youth who aspire to work and thrive across the spectrum of creative occupations. And they should be able to—and survive financially.
The key to youth employment is investing in what they are pursuing as careers, to provide a place for them to remain or return to after accumulating overseas experience. If they feel like there is no place for their aspirations here, they will continue to remain overseas in pursuit of their dreams.
Before devising a plan, The Ministry of Youth and Sport should conduct a survey of Bermudians aged 16-24 and gather tangible statistics on their aspiring or chosen career choices. As the largest unemployed age group in Bermuda, valuable insight can be gained.
I have worked alongside a number of creatives who have obtained the various grants and support currently available. They have still had to take up jobs outside their field to provide themselves health insurance and supplementary income. This stifles the ability to pour into their creative career path. This includes highly qualified, university educated creatives who are unable to survive off their craft in their own island.
I have read the proposed Youth Sponsorship Programme, which I welcome. However, with it being spread over various fields of interest, I suggest it should be more specific initiatives for creatives and our artists. We need to create a framework for an industry built by the artist, for our artists, from which they can sustain themselves.
Putting together a task force that includes our creatives and various industry budding entrepreneurs, is win/win. By giving them a voice and an opportunity to propose viable solutions, not only can they offer valuable insight but they can help the Government to chart a tangible way forward.
It’s imperative that we encourage Bermudians to be proud of and support their local artists. Our cultural identity is greatly preserved and built upon by our creative community. In my opinion, this is of paramount importance.