AMCHAM T&T & AAIUH Summer Internship Programme - President's Speech

AMCHAM T&T – AAIUH 2020 Summer Internship Programme

Sustainable Development, Entrepreneurship & Advocacy

Good morning Ladies and gentlemen, AND boys and girls.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today on behalf of the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago.

I would like to begin with a quote by Arthur Ashe who once said: “From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.”

I wanted to start with this quote by the man whose name the institution that is facilitating this lucrative summer internship programme is named after. Thank you to all the kind and caring folks at the Arthur Ashe Institution of Urban Health. Without your support for this initiative, none of this would be possible.

This quote reminds me of the work that AMCHAM T&T is doing and why we are here. So much of what we "get" allow us to continue to do the great work that we do. The support we receive helps us to provide thoughtful leadership and value to our members through our events, advocacy work and general support we provide on a host of issues. But that’s only what we receive or get. It is what we give back that determines the quality of life we afford to other persons.

That’s why we are happy to be partnering today with the Arthur Ashe Institution of Urban Health which was facilitated by our friends at the US Embassy. Together with their support, 20 students from our nation’s secondary schools will greatly benefit from training on an array of topics and will conduct research projects in collaboration with various local organizations through this internship programme. I simply cannot wait to see how this is going to change the lives of these students.

As you know this is all part of our National Youth Productivity Forum (NYPF) which remains one of our marquee events on the AMCHAM calendar because we believe that creating a better economic future for our country means taking an active role in the development of the youth of our nation. That means giving our young people a chance at a life where they can fullfill their dreams and make a life for themselves.

Every year we invite secondary students from schools around the country to participate and engage in healthy discussions on various national issues at our annual NYPF. At the end of the forum, we offer summer internships to students at the companies of our members. 

This year, with COVID-19 impacting on the lives of so many of us, we were forced to be nimble in our approach to ensure that we were in a position to give back to these students.

Cancelling the programme might have been the easy thing to do given the disturbances caused by COVID-19. But as Mr. Ashe said “it is what we give that makes a life” so we knew we had to be resilient and to ensure that we didn’t let down these kids. That’s why we partnered with the Arthur Ashe Institute of Urban Health on this year’s summer internship programme because through their resources we were able to make this year’s programme entirely virtual.

We believe this will be an ideal platform that will help students to remain safe while affording them an opportunity to grow by gaining valuable work experience. It also helped us to put our digital transformation agenda to the test. We have been promoting the need for digital transformation to introduce new opportunities for business and reliable services to benefit citizens. While this year’s internship allows the students to work remotely, we are also creating an even more diverse work environment through different geographical settings. This way students need not worry about fears associated with COVID-19 while still acquiring skills that will positively contribute to their future growth and development.

That’s why I want to encourage all our students to embrace the opportunities that you receive from this internship programme. It can and should change your life but only if you take full advantage of it. Not only will you learn new skills, but you will also gain valuable knowledge from your co-workers and bosses. 

I implore you to digest all the knowledge you are taught in this new environment. Don’t be discouraged when things seem too challenging. Seek guidance from your bosses and fellow co-workers. And always remember to ask questions. 

Yes, ask many questions even when you think or feel it will make you look or sound stupid. No! Remove that thought from your head. Don’t let fear or doubt control your thoughts. There is no such thing as a stupid question. So, if you are unsure about something or you don’t understand, simply ask a question. It’s something I do every day. And I can assure you that there is always someone around to offer guidance or assistance in the workplace. And that’s how you really learn and grow.

Opportunities like this can help you develop a different work ethic that will prove beneficial to how you approach your studies and perhaps even inspire new goals for your life and future career. It will allow you to meet many influential people who might have a lasting impact on your life. So, use this to network and build your contact lists beyond your Facebook friends list.

At AMCHAM we are not only about promoting trade and investment into T&T. We believe in order to achieve this we must build and strengthen relationships with clients, investors and our members. We have to establish those connections that will have us make a living, but more importantly, give back so we can help make a life for many others. That’s what is really important to us. So, I encourage you to be respectful to everyone you ever encounter. Always lend a helping hand wherever you can. Be kind to others and stay engaging. Prove that you can be a team player, excel at whatever tasks that are assigned to you, embrace new opportunities, even when they seem challenging, and continue building your resume.

As young people, I know most of your interaction revolves around likes, tweets, snaps, and now TikTok. I am always very impressed by the ingenuity and creativity by our young people, particularly by how quickly they are able to embrace new technologies and make something “go viral” or become the new trend. And that’s the commitment and enthusiasm I hope you take with you to build your personal brand. 

Yes! Everything you post online is part of your personal brand that is meant to tell the world something about you. I’m sure you have heard the warnings about being careful what you post online. I don’t need to rehash that but what I would tell you is how you can use those very platforms you enjoy to create a brand for yourself that will make you the envy of your friends and more attractive to future employers.

Instead of sharing a pic of that delicious meal you are having for lunch, why not share a selfie with the caption “first day on the new job”? Think how impressive that will be to your friends. And instead of resharing that funny meme because everyone is doing it, why not share a post about accomplishing a difficult task with success? Think of the many people you can inspire when they read that post. 

This is what building your personal brand is about. It allows you to show a history of strong values that proves your dedication, commitment, and resolve to accomplish your goals. This is the language employers love to listen to. So, know that whatever you post, you are communicating with people that are outside your friend list and who may have the power to influence and change your lives.

In closing, let me extend my sincere gratitude to the Arthur Ashe Institute of Urban Health for partnering with us this year to facilitate the internship programme. I also want to thank our friends at the US Embassy for their continued support of so many of our initiatives. Thank you to all the companies who have agreed to accept our interns this year. I know they will add positively to your respective organisations so I hope you will make good use of them. Thank you to the Board of AMCHAM T&T for their leadership. And thank you to Melissa Pierre, our Senior Trade and Policy Specialist, and the rest of the secretariat for their commitment and dedication towards the NYPF programme. And finally, to this year’s class of interns I leave you with this final nugget of advice: “Absorb the knowledge and experience you will receive from this internship programme, make good use of it, and whatever path you choose for yourself, always remember it’s more important to give back.” 

Thank You!

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