Youth unemployment (over 30 percent) imposed a high cost to society as a result of increased risks of deviant behavior and foregone earnings. Young people in OECS countries, particularly the poor, faced structural barriers to enter labor markets, including insufficient education, life and job skills. At the same time enhancing the efficiency of labor markets was an important regional priority, as increasing movement of artisans and skilled persons across the Caribbean Community was seen as a crucial element to the success of the incipient Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME). In this context, the Caribbean region had taken steps to provide the human capital foundation for economic growth and integration, including adopting a Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (CVQ) framework that sets common standards and recognition of technical and vocational qualifications throughout the region and alignment of technical and vocational training (TVET) with workplace demands.
The OECS Skills for Inclusive Growth Program was designed to work with the private sector to address the skills shortage as well as the policy and institutional framework to deliver skills to disadvantaged unemployed youth. Support for life skills (including basic literacy and numeracy, socio-emotional or non-cognitive skills also known as productivity enhancement training) and vocational training (both classroom and on-the-job internships) and certification for unemployed youth based on industry approved occupational standards. The quality of training would be enhanced through establishment of a policy framework for training, including the introduction of competency-based standards.