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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Workforce Development, Consumer Affairs and Culture, chaired by Sen. Myron Jackson, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Wednesday, and voted to hold in committee pending further amendments, Bill No. 32-0061 to establish an At-Risk and High-Risk Youth Career Development Program to increase the future employment and career development among high-risk and at-risk youth.

“Statistics have shown that approximately 70 to 80 percent of crimes committed are by individuals who have not completed high school,” Sen. Sammuel Sanes, sponsor of the bill, said.  “If we can reach out to them at an early age, it can positively shape their future.”

During the hearing, it was revealed during questioning by Sen. Brian Smith and Sen. Marvin Blyden that while the federal Workforce Investment Opportunity Act – which guides the Department of Labor – contains similar language to Bill No. 32-0061 to create programs to employ youth while keeping their standard of living up to par, there is currently not enough staff on board to fulfill that mandate.

WIOA requires specialists who must engage with the youths to help address their individual needs, Labor Commissioner Catherine Hendry said.

“With this bill we don’t want to have an overlapping of services offered to disadvantaged youths,” she said. “To ensure success for government programs, all the dots should be connected between employers, alienated youths and the community.”

The Virgin Islands has a serious problem in bridging the gap for young Black males in this society although there are several programs in the territory to assist youth who are disabled, incarcerated and much more, Sen. Marvin Blyden stated.

That sentiment was echoed by Sen. Jackson, who noted that locally there is a successful non-profit program for young Black males and inquired whether the government had a similar program with a proven track record. “Where is the government model that resembles My Brother’s Workshop?” he asked.

Ilene Heyward Garner, chair of the Virgin Islands Career & Technical Education added that the reason My Brother’s Workshop is successful is because it creates jobs, and that instead of reaching out to employers, youths are taught to be entrepreneurs. “Comparatively, the government model needs to include a faith based community and parental involvement,” she said.

Ultimately, policymakers voted to hold Bill No. 32-0061 in committee. Similarly, senators voted to hold in committee, Bill No. 32-0058, sponsored by Sen. Dwayne DeGraff, to require tanks trucks used to transport water to display the gallon capacity of the tank truck. However, senators collectively expressed support and voted favorably for Bill No. 32-0099, sponsored by Senator Janette Millin-Young, a resolution honoring Nels Hawkinson for founding Paradise Jam in the Territory. Approved measures will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary.

Senators also received an update from members of the Virgin Islands Transfer Centennial Commission. To date, $730,595.51 was expended for the Transfer Centennial Commemorations and observations territory-wide, to include music festivals, carnival, historical TV vignettes, quelbe events, historic signage, collectible merchandise, the reopening of Fort Christian, inter-island travel for commission members, lectures, symposiums and travel as it relates to the rehabilitation of historic structures by USVI and Danish students; according to Kevin Jackson, the Commission’s executive director. The Commission has received over $500,000 in requests from community proposals for events for the remainder of the year. ###