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By Latrishka Thomas

Many young people have felt the pinch from job losses and business closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the involuntary down-time, if used constructively, could put many youths in a better position to obtain a job after the crisis has dissipated.

Speaking at the National Youth Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda’s (NYPAAB’S) virtual town hall meeting on Saturday, Dean Jonas, minister with responsibility for youth affairs, urged young people to do just that by educating themselves.

“There is no real job growth in the economy at this time… my expectation is that our young people will be focused on educating themselves. Take the opportunity at home now to do courses online. Take advantage of the courses that are available locally,” Jonas said, answering a question posed by one attendee.

He specifically reminded listeners of his ministry’s youth empowerment programme.

Minister of Trade EP Chet Greene agreed with Jonas, saying that “these training programmes will assist in the transitioning of the workforce”.

He disclosed that the Economic Recovery Committee (ERC) will soon be unveiling its plans for the road ahead which include a blueprint for “retraining, retooling and redirecting the Antiguan economy”.

Jonas said the newly added department in his ministry – the blue economy – will see the creation of many jobs.

“The solutions that the blue economy is going to bring to bear are going to affect all sectors of the Antigua and Barbuda economy,” he said, as he explained that plans are in place to work along with affected ministries such as tourism and agriculture.

Jonas said a marine spatial planning department will be created to map out “how we are going to utilise our water resources in the ocean”.

He said that will require training and employing several individuals.

Saturday saw the first ever NYPAAB town hall meeting held, with the aim of giving young people aged 16 to 29 the opportunity to engage government ministers by asking their burning questions.

The other panelists included Minister of Education Michael Browne, Minister of Agriculture Samantha Marshall and Minister of Tourism Charles ‘Max’ Fernandez.

The next event being held by the non-partisan association will be a parliamentary debate on two bills created by two youth parliamentarians, Jahmaal Frederick and Chaneil Imhoff, on youth rehabilitation and mental health, respectively.

The NYPAAB will celebrate its first anniversary on October 25.