Project Director of the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP), Lucille Brodber, says that Phase Two of the programme will target some 30,000 persons, and will be implemented across financial years 2012/14.
Speaking at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ on April 26, she points out that under Phase one of the programme, which began in March and will end in June 2012, a total of 5,000 persons are expected to benefit from various types of work across the island.
Mrs. Brodber says that so far, close to 3,000 persons have been engaged in some form of work or training across the island.
The programme, which was officially launched on March 22 by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, is one of the strategies that the Government will implement to respond to the chronic unemployment status of some Jamaicans, particularly those in the lower socio-economic category, persons with special needs, low skill levels and those from under-served communities.
“The main objective of the programme is to provide economic opportunity and employment for the vulnerable, that is the unemployed and under-employed, and equip targeted individuals and groups with simple marketable skills as the base for long-term skills and employment,” the Project Director highlights.
On the matter of funding, she says that three major sources have been identified – $4.2 billion from the re-scoping of the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP); $1 billon from the Petrocaribe Fund and $1 billion from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).
In addition to these funds, Mrs. Brodber says that all the Ministries and agencies have been asked to review their budgets to see how they can implement projects that are in accordance with the JEEP mandate.
She states that implementation of the programme will involve multi-sectoral, inter-governmental and non-governmental co-ordination and liaison with participating entities – the National Works Agency; Ministries of Agriculture, Education, Labour & Social Security, National Security; Heart Trust/NTA; Forestry Department; Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and the National Housing Trust (NHT).
Highlighting the scope of work of the ministries and agencies involved, she explains that the NWA projects selected came from existing projects that have been made more labour intensive. The scope of work include patching, drain cleaning, gully repair, bushing, river training and retaining wall and curb repair.
The Forestry Department will engage persons in replanting exercises and repairing existing trails. The projects under the Ministry of Agriculture include turmeric, ginger and banana planting and beekeeping.
Certificates have already been presented to 27 young men, following their completion of a 16-hour training course in hand-held tractor operation, under the JEEP.
The Ministry of Education’s projects include data entry training and persons being trained to work in schools as assistants to the teachers. Some 2,000 persons will also be trained under the National Youth Service (NYS) programme.
Under the Ministry of Labour & Social Security, there is a partnership with the private sector for the implementation of a training and ‘work experience’ programme for young persons, particularly school leavers who will be placed in various entities over a six-month period.
"The whole idea of JEEP is preparing persons, so they are able to go out in the workplace at a time when things might be a little slow and getting ready for the time when the economy has turned around and employment is out there, so they will be ready to participate and contribute,” Mrs. Brodber says.
“We are trying to ensure that persons do not only get ‘a work’ for one or two days, but at least three weeks, so that they will become trained and be able to transfer their skills,” she adds.
In terms of selecting workers, she notes that, “preference will be given to persons who are between the ages of 18 and 40, although persons over this age and in need should not be excluded, especially those with the necessary skills.” She emphasises that not more than one person from a household should be employed at any given time.
The idea, she says, is to ensure that the benefits are spread. “We are trying to put some guidelines, so that there is some sort of fairness out there when the selection process is going on,” she explains.
Mrs. Brodber adds that the selection can be done through the Members of Parliament, Councillors, community organisations/groups or individuals going to a HEART Trust/NTA office and indicating an interest to work on the programme. Application forms for employment will be available at HEART Trust/NTA and distributed to stakeholders in communities islandwide.
A website will be established at the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing with information about the various projects that have started and will be undertaken.
Regarding the monitoring and evaluation of the programme, the Project Director informs that the HEART Trust will be establishing a tracking system, and providing data on all persons employed under the JEEP, in order to effectively measure its success after the two-year implementation period.
“The JEEP Secretariat will monitor every project that is implemented. We will go on the sites and inspect the work. We have to make sure that everything is done according to the Government’s regulation and that all contracts are done within the government procurement guidelines and we will not tolerate any breeches,” Mrs. Brodber emphasises.
She argues that the unemployed labour force represents an untapped resource which is critical to the country’s growth and development. “It is not intended that this programme will solve all the unemployment problems that currently exist, but it will create new areas for employment and review how we as a nation do business,” Mrs. Brodber asserts.
By Kadian Brown, JIS PRO