Plans to cut the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) have recently been announced by the Department of Education and the Department of Employment and Learning.
These plans could force many of our young people to abandon their dreams and give up their education and training.
Every option the ministers have outlined will lead to the scrapping of the £10 and £20 weekly support bands for people aged 16-19 and in education or training.
EMA is a lifeline to thousands of young people in Northern Ireland. Without it, many could be looking at potentially bleak employment prospects.
Any cut in EMA would not only be a bodyblow to students, but would have a detrimental impact upon our economy.
It could force many of our young people out of learning as they would have to get a job because they wouldn't be able to continue studying due to a lack of financial help.
To lose the potential that the many skilled people who depend on EMA would bring to our economy in the future would be devastating.
To attract investors to Northern Ireland, we need to have the skillbase and expertise in place to meet the needs of employers.
If we do not have the skills in our workforce to meet the specifications of companies, no amount of other business set-up incentives will attract new investors.
Cutting EMA would also be an attack on people from lower-income backgrounds. A decrease in its provision would fly in the face of fairness. We must see equality of opportunity for all.
It is crucial that every effort is made to address the issue of how to provide opportunities and encouragement to young people not in education, employment or training.
How can we ever address this matter if EMA - one of the prime factors in enabling people to stay on at school or college - is cut?
If EMA is slashed - as proposed - it could drive many young people of potential towards a future in which their employment opportunities are significantly diminished.
These types of cuts could also create a skills-gap. A skills-deficit is not just a major problem in the short term; it will beset society and the economy for decades to come.
Providing EMA for our young people helps us invest in the future. By providing financial backing to enable young people to continue in education or training, we are enhancing our future workforce's employment prospects.
A more highly-skilled workforce would help cut unemployment. Investing to deliver benefits in the medium and long term also help us develop our economy and the areas of expertise in the workforce.
To build and sustain our economy, we must be prepared to put in the effort and devote adequate resources to upskilling our young people and encouraging lifelong learning to help everyone. To fail to do so will store up problems for people and society in the future.
The ministers have so far demonstrated a strong commitment in relation to accessibility to further and higher education and to delivering on skills. We, therefore, hope their plans will change to recognise the pivotal role played by EMA and the need for it to be maintained in full.
Without full protection for EMA, any widening participation work, as well as skills and youth employment strategies, will lie in tatters.
How can we encourage our young people to reach their potential if they can't make ends meet when they are studying?
The Northern Ireland Executive must make helping young people gain skills and, subsequently, employment a key priority.
Our young people hold the key to the future of our economy. They need the support to gain the skills to drive our economy forward.
This cannot - and will not - happen if Government cuts any component of EMA.