Fifty-five people started the Ministry of Sports and Community Development’s Entrepreneurship Development Management Program, also known as With These Hands. Thirty-eight participants graduated, 37 women and one man.
Community Development Deputy Director Omade Beeson said the program focused on craft and what people do with their hands.
This included three months of training with NEDCO in small business development and four weeks of training with Export Center Company Limited in skill development.
Beeson said the trainees attended master’s classes, dividing them into groups based on their business area, such as culinary arts, home improvement, event management, self-improvement and creative design.
“We had experts from various fields come and chat with the trainees. They told them about how to build their businesses, challenges, advice for progress. They entertained questions from the trainees and it was a successful two days.”
Program participants are encouraged to produce new products or services or improve existing ones.
Gregory Pontin is the only gentleman to graduate from the program. Formerly a draftsperson, he produces 3D prints of local symbols such as Calypso Rose and Black Stalin as well as folklore. He hopes to gain traction in the 2022/2023 tourism season.
Pontin presented a testimonial on behalf of his class.
“Seventy percent of the class graduated. There were 37 women and one gentleman. What happened to all the men? They didn’t get the memo, who knows? But it’s a guess who wants to better themselves in Trinidad, and the majority of micro-entrepreneurs in TT are of either gender. .”
He discussed the complex nature of the course and its broad content, then offered a review: “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
“Good: This is an online program fully realized and implemented during the Covid 19 pandemic. Bad: The same problems of virtual participation experienced everywhere plagued this program as well – communication, information dissemination and access to online devices and the Internet – but the program will move in-person from next year.
“Well,” he said, “the program was 100 percent, worth our time. No participant could say their time in class was a waste as each session provided invaluable information to each of us.”
He said the course could have been too compact and additional sessions or recordings would have been helpful.
In “The Ugly”, Pontin discovers halfway through the course that he is the only male in the women’s class. At first, Pontin was happy when he told a friend, but the friend said, “That’s sad.”
Pontin recalls, “He said, ‘These government self-improvement programs are free, take your time to improve yourself.’ He was saddened by the lack of more men, more young men trying to do good.
“The ugly thing is that I feel special as the only man I can represent, when the truth is, there should be more.”
Pantin urged everyone in attendance to encourage young people to take up initiatives like these hands-on initiatives, thereby increasing the number of men in entrepreneurship.