Youth urged to be adaptable, resilient

James Kon

“I challenge you to create a different set of opportunities for you and your peers, beyond what is currently available, rather than just waiting for a comfortable job, or a corporate ladder to climb,” His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Mateen said in his sabda at the opening ceremony of the two-day BIBD Youth Empowerment Summit (YES!) yesterday.

The opening ceremony at Jerudong International School (JIS) Arts Centre was attended by some 300 youth participants from 32 schools nationwide.

His Royal Highness also said, “I strongly believe that our youth can build new corporations which will be future engines of our society.”

The youth, with their vibrant energy and fresh perspectives can contribute vitality and creativity to emerging social and economic challenges that Brunei face, he said.

His Royal Highness also pointed out, “We are already seeing youth-led organisations come up with ideas and solutions to tackle issues such as public transport, food security, sustainable energy, and more. These young people should be recognised for the work they are doing to create real change in our society – change that will make an impact not just today, but also to help us deal with the challenges of the future.”

His Royal Highness in his sabda touched on COVID-19 and its impacts worldwide including Brunei Darussalam: “We have before us the COVID-19 pandemic, with its devastating impact on the global community, and our community here in Brunei Darussalam. Businesses, jobs, and our personal well-being have all been affected by this crisis.”

His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Mateen delivers his sabda at the BIBD Youth Empowerment Summit. PHOTOS: MUIZ MATDANI
His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Mateen with students

“With 71 million coronavirus cases and 1.6 million deaths around the world, we must all be grateful to the government for containing the virus effectively and at the same time address the wider consequences of this pandemic. Businesses have had to shut down and schools suspended, leading to socio-economic disruptions of current structures and demanding us to consider how best to operate in this new normal.”

His Royal Highness added, “As latest figures from the government show that the national unemployment rate stands at 6.8 per cent, and youth unemployment at 21.3 per cent, there is no doubt our youth face a future marked by greater sense of uncertainty. Yet I am heartened to see that youth were at the forefront of volunteering to help people during these times of need – from distributing food supplies to healthcare workers and to raising funds for our communities.

“However, this spirit of identifying the needs in the community is only the beginning, working hard to fill the gap is what will set you apart when you leave school or graduate from college. The results you obtain and the certificates you receive will not be as significant as working for a greater purpose that you are passionate about.”

His Royal Highness added, “I, myself was not a brilliant student but I found my passion in the army, serving my country. We need to realise that the challenges of our generation face will not be the same as before. Therefore, we also need to be adaptable and resilient.”

His Royal Highness recalled, “When I was 18 years old, I was sent to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the UK, where I was pushed to my limits time and time again. Often, I thought I could not take it anymore – but I learned not to give up in trying times. I recall one very formative experience – I had to complete a 73-kilometre group race in the black mountains of Wales, all while carrying a 20-kilogramme backpack. Generally, this takes between 24 and 35 hours to complete, with hardly any rest. The terrain was so unforgiving that I developed a cramp within the first hour, and I did not know how much longer I could go on.

“But despite the intense pain, I just focussed on putting one foot in front of the other. And in the end, after a gruelling 23 hours and 11 minutes, my group and I finished in first place. This showed me how powerful the mind is, even when the body feels like giving up.

“What this experience, and what being in the military has taught me, is that we need to constantly push ourselves and not be afraid of challenges. Because pressing on and fighting through hardships will only build our resilience and character. This pandemic and its lingering effects will put our youth’s resilience to the test. Jobs that you may have wanted when you were younger may not be there in the future.”

His Royal Highness also said,”I would like to applaud the government for implementing programmes to re-train and up-skill the youth, such as the i-Ready apprenticeships and SkillsPlus.”

“I encourage you to explore these initiatives, to expose yourselves to new industries and build new skill sets, constantly improving yourselves.”

His Royal Highness added, “We want to develop new industries that will future-proof our economy. One example is investing into our creative industries. This was an issue close to my late brother’s heart. Globally, the creative industries employ more people aged 15 to 29 than any other sector.

“There are a lot of young people in Brunei Darussalam who are passionate about the arts, who have started their own creative agencies, production companies and more. They have moved beyond the usual path and out of their comfort zone to make a change. I want to encourage the youth to approach the stakeholders in this room with your ideas, in the creative industries or beyond. And together, create an ecosystem that is sustainable; one that creates quality job opportunities – and achieves social and economic progress.”

His Royal Highness added, “With that, I wish for you all to have a productive and successful summit, and that there will be outcomes that pave the way for the youth to become pioneers in the continued development of Brunei Darussalam.”