The Government's job creating initiative, the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP), has been reducing the number of unemployed persons, since its launch in March this year, with one participant describing it as a "Godsend."
For 23 year-old Melissa McDonald of Kingston, the project is providing her with the job experience she needs for long term employment.
Melissa, who has passes in seven subjects from the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), several Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) passes and an associate degree, which she acquired in sixth form, has gained temporary employment through the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s contribution to JEEP.
Under the programme, she is employed at the Kingston Industrial Garage (KIG) for a period of six months.
"It has been good, as the more (job) experience you have, it’s better for you. Financially, it is helping out…as instead of being at home, you are actually going out to work," she tells JIS News, noting that she has already completed three months with the company.
Melissa, who aspires to be a chartered accountant, says JEEP is a "great" initiative which is assisting school leavers and other persons to be employed.
"It is a really good initiative and it is a really good part of the Government's programmes. It is a Godsend for a lot of persons,” she adds.
Director in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, with responsibility for the JEEP, Diane Spence, says the Ministry’s contribution to the programme is designed specifically for individuals between the ages of 18 to 30 who have three or more CXCs and are unemployed.
"We are partnering with corporate entities for a period of six months, whereby the Ministry of Labour and Social Security will pay these JEEP employees a salary of $6,000 per week for the first three months; thereafter the employers will pay their salary at the same $6,000 per week,” she adds.
She tells JIS News that during the initial period of employment, the employee will gain skills which will be beneficial to him or her and the respective organisation. The Director adds that it is anticipated that their employment will be extended, based on their performance during the six months.
Ms. Spence informs that based on the level of demand from the corporate partners, over 400 individuals have been employed since the programme started in May.
The participants are employed in various organisations, including but not limited to the food and beverage industry, insurance industry, automotive industry, and as customer service representatives.
She says most of the employees have expressed gratitude, and have promised to perform to the “best of their ability.” Ms. Spence informs that some of the more than 200 employers have indicated that they will keep some of the employees after the emergency work programme expires.
Meanwhile, Human Resources Manager at Kingston Industrial Garage (KIG), Tricia Smith, points out that two persons are employed through the JEEP in the company’s Parts Department.
“The idea is that at the end of the six months, we will assess the two persons who are working and if it arises that we need somebody permanent, these persons will ideally be the best candidates based on how they perform,” she says.
Lauding the Government for the initiative, Ms. Smith tells JIS News that it will assist in preparing persons for the world of work.
The JEEP is one of the strategies of the Government to respond to chronic unemployment among some Jamaicans, particularly those in lower socio-economic groups, persons with special needs, as well as those with low skill levels.
During phase one of JEEP, which ended recently, approximately 15,000 persons were employed in several Ministries and Agencies, undertaking tasks in the areas of infrastructure, agriculture, education and intensive labour.
For phase two, $6 billion has been earmarked to be spent on projects in the Ministries of Agriculture and Fisheries; Labour and Social Security; and Housing; HEART Trust/NTA and the National Housing Trust (NHT), among others.
It is projected that some 35,000 persons will be employed during this phase of the programme.