It is such a pleasure to be here this morning as we acknowledge and congratulate the efforts of everyone who participated in this year’s National Youth Productivity Forum.
As I approach the end of my Presidency at AMCHAM T&T, I have begun to experience a bit of nostalgia. I distinctly remember nine years ago when the Trade and Investment Committee resolved that creating a better economic future for our country meant taking an active role in investing in the youth of our nation. The trigger for this was the Business Future of the Americas Conference hosted by AMCHAM T&T in 2008, where as part of our youth development initiative, students from sixth forms were invited to attend and gain a ‘new’ experience. We decided to create a space where students could express their ideas and be introduced to new concepts and critical thinking skills.
We knew that this interaction would inspire an innovative way of thinking and impart upon students the importance of seeing beyond the moment, seeing beyond just one issue, and instead looking for holistic and long-term solutions. This was the genesis of the National Youth Productivity Forum, the NYPF. To the students of this year’s iteration, I hope you have been challenged and you can now envision a world of possibilities beyond of what you were told existed.
This generation more than any other can relate to the idea put forward by The New York Times, American journalist and three-time Pulitzer winner, Thomas Friedman. He posited that we are living in an era where there are three massive accelerations in tandem:
· Environmental issues, especially global warming (new SDGs)
· Globalization (hyper-interconnectivity), and
· Technology (the great equalizer and disruptor).
He advised that we should focus on these three accelerations if we wanted to be relevant in the future. We at AMCHAM T&T are in agreement with this position.
Technology is integrated into every aspect of our daily lives. Today, it almost seems as though babies are born with a bottle in one hand and a smartphone in the other. We have the obvious examples of the internet of everything and communications, but it is so much more. Medical innovations such as 3-d printing and genetic coding, artificial intelligence, and commercial space travel are amongst the countless other examples that exist. From time to time, I am sure you hear your parents and teachers say “when I was your age we didn’t have all this smart this and smart that…..” or maybe you have heard “kids have it so easy, when I was young we didn’t have google, we had to walk ten miles to the library and try to find an encyclopedia…..” To many it may seem that young people today have it “so much easier”. But do they really?
While technology offers many advantages, it also leads to a certain level of uncertainty. With disruptive technologies, and the rapid rate of innovation, no one can really predict what the future will look like. Moreover, with this is mind I ask this question. “Can we (the older generation), who have not lived with and experienced technology as these young people have, adequately prepare them for a future where technology will play an increase larger role in their daily lives?
This is why we chose this year’s theme – “Re-engineering Education: How our education system needs to be re-engineered to keep up with the modern world and improved productivity.”
I believe that because this generation lives in such an interconnected world, and they have the advantage of understanding the concept of a global community, whether social or business. They can appreciate the idea that a ripple in the pond in one place can have a magnanimous effect thousands of miles away.
These accelerations are not just something we learn about but it is something that we live and we believe that this should be the foundational focus of solving our present challenges, as well as a part in shaping our future.
And whether we accept it or not, the actions of the present adults are shaping the future that you will inherit. Is the education system structured in a way to truly prepare you for the future you will inherit? Are you prepared for the jobs that may or may not exist? And then how will you, in turn, shape the future for the generation that succeeds you?
This year’s theme is meant to ingrain the notion that the seeds which we plant today in the form of ideas and actions influence what we will reap tomorrow. We also realize that the persons most impacted by the school curriculum, the students, do not have a hand in planning it.
Education is the basis of everything; it is up to you to decide the priority it is given in your life. Decide what and who you want to be, and where you will place your focus. Decide to plan, pursue and persist. I must warn you however, that in your pursuit of success you will make mistakes and you will fail. Do not let this deter you as you will also learn that failure is a part of success. There is no successful person, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg who has not experienced failure in some form at some time in their journey.
Another lesson you will learn is that you cannot do it alone. This is one of the reasons we have team discussions and not individual debates. It is through collaboration and this team effort that we overcome our greatest challenges.
I encourage you to dream. Dream big, but know that there must be action. Don’t be bogged down by the cynicism of society or your past experiences. Instead, seek to marry your knowledge with those experiences so that you can orchestrate the future you desire. Let those life experiences teach you the importance tolerance, persistence, and courage as disciplined principles to be maintained at all times, in all that we do.
During my time as President, I sought to build on the great leadership that came before me. I cannot say that this has been an easy journey, but it has definitely been a rewarding one. It is one of the great distinctions in my life that I will cherish. I can truly say that I am a testament that AMCHAM T&T is committed to building and promoting leadership. This is why this program has been so important to us, and we continue to be grateful for the support we have received. To His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, we thank you for being the patron of the program. I must mention how much I admire that each year you take the time to greet and speak with all of the NYPF students. To the Ministers of Education, the Ministry of Education, thank you for continuing to partner with AMCHAM T&T in ensuring this endeavour continues, and continues successfully.
I would also like to thank the corporate entities such as First Citizens, Massy Technologies, UTT and others, whose support enable us to continue with this program.
I would like to congratulate this year’s winners: Belmont Secondary School, who are first-time entrants, Presentation College, Cowen Hamilton Secondary School, Queen’s Royal College, Woodbrook Secondary School and The First Goodwood Scout Group from Tobago. To the teachers and the parents, we offer a heartfelt thank you. We know it is no easy feat to find the time in a world full of commitments, but we hope that you can see for yourself the growth in the students and we look forward to your continued support as we look ahead to next year. I also hope that this experience has made a meaningful and indelible impact on your perspective on what you that these students can offer the world.
In closing, I would like to take the time to express my gratitude to a variety of persons who has helped me during my term in office at AMCHAM T& - the Board, the Officers of the Board, the CEO, the team at the Secretariat, and our valued members. It has been said that we should never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. This group of people, known as AMCHAM T&T, is committed to service, exhibiting a will to succeed, and to ensure that this organisation excels in any arena we are placed in.
To all students, the future leaders of our great country, as Peter Drucker said, “Long range planning does not deal with future decisions, but the future of present decisions”. You are the future in and of our decisions. Make it count.
For the privilege of your attention, I thank you.
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