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The Ministry of Labour and Social Security will be implementing three initiatives during the current fiscal year aimed at promoting training and employment.
Speaking in the 2008/09 Sectoral Debate in Gordon House on Wednesday (May 21), Labour and Social Security Minister, Pearnel Charles, said the initiatives are: a special youth employment and training project; a ‘Steps to Work’ project; and a special project for persons with disabilities.
He explained that the youth employment and training project has aimed at tackle the high rate of unemployment among young people between ages 18 and 25 years, whom he said “require urgent action.”
“One of the main factors contributing to youth unemployment is the lack of requisite competence and skills to function effectively in the labour market,” the Minister pointed out.
He told the House that data contained in the 2006 Labour Force Survey showed that 52 per cent of all first time job seekers did not possess formal educational qualifications. Further, that 63 per cent of persons unemployed did not receive any formal training.
“The Jamaican workforce is inadequately prepared to enter the challenging labour market, which requires advanced technological and academic skills as well as critical thinking,” Mr. Charles pointed out, lamenting that upwards of 70 percent of the local workforce was not certified.
The Minister said that the Special Youth Employment and Training project would seek to address this issue as a “short-term labour market intervention” to promote employment, skills training, and overall development of this group.
“The project is expected to contribute to the national goal of job creation and employment, and is aimed at providing decent and productive work and to train (some) 10,000 persons.over the next four years, which means (either) giving them new skills or upgrading them in skills,” Mr. Charles informed.
The first year of the project will focus on training some 2,500 persons through “corporate placement(s)”, Mr. Charles explained, of which 1,000 are expected to achieve functional literacy, and 1,500 certified in at least one skilled area. He said the Ministry would be the lead agency for the project, working in collaboration with several other organizations including the HEART Trust/NTA; community colleges; and Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning.
Assistance, he pointed out, will also be forthcoming from professional organizations such as the Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF) and the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ). The Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), Incorporated Masterbuilders Association of Jamaica (IMAJ), and the National Youth Service (NYS) are all “working to get the project off the ground,” he said.
Minister Charles said that under the project, the Ministry will enlist the support of employers in corporate entities to facilitate the engagement of at least two trainees. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will be signed between the Ministry and each participating organization outlining specific terms and conditions under which both parties will operate.
He said Cabinet, and the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, had approved the Ministry of Labour’s allocation of funds generated from the work permit programme to assist with the apprenticeship initiative.
In the meantime, the Steps to Work project, which is being supported by the World Bank, will empower beneficiaries of the Programme for Advancement through Health and Education (PATH).
“We are not going to continue to feed young people in their houses with PATH programme money,” Minister Charles said. “We are going to put it together and put them in business. In short, it is a method of weaning persons from the welfare, and helping them to break the inter-generational cycle of poverty, which has been the challenge of this country for many centuries, and move them from dependency to independence,” he stressed.
The project for persons with disabilities will see some $115 million in the 2008/09 Budget being used to empower physically challenged individuals, Mr. Charles stated. He explained that $15 million will go toward grants to the various voluntary organizations providing various types of services for persons with disabilities and the remaining $100 million will be dedicated to assisting persons with disabilities to get into income generation and training.
“Loans will be provided at interest rates below 10 per cent to engage them in micro and small business enterprise (and) these loans will be made available through participating financial institutions. In addition, there will be support services for persons, who wish to access facilities. This will be provided by the Ministry of Industry, (Investment), and Commerce, through their incubator project,” he informed.