Jobless Barbadians are not taking full advantage of Government’s $10 million Unemployment Retraining Fund.
In making the revelation this morning, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo urged those on the breadline, especially the 3,000 public sector workers who will be retrenched by March, to utilize the fund.
“Government has established a $10 million unemployment retraining fund, which is designed to provide retraining opportunities for unemployed persons through agencies such as the BVTB [Barbados Vocational Training Board], the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic and the BCC [Barbados Community College],” Byer-Suckoo said during the official opening of a new wing at the Barbados Vocational Training Board’s C. Lomer Alleyne Resource Centre, Sayes Court, Christ Church.
“I am concerned,” the minister added, “that not enough persons are taking advantage of this programme. Even now, with retrenchments in the private and public sectors, Government can still provide opportunities; but persons have to grasp the opportunities given,” she stated.
“It may not look like the opportunity you expected, but it is. It may even have the potential for greater earning than you had.”
Byer-Suckoo observed that being unemployed was “very” difficult, and it was understandable that there would be grief at first. However, she is of the view that one should take stock and move on.
“Do not give up. There is an opportunity somehwere in all of this for you. If a person has no skills, and jobs become available in the next few months, that person is immediately disadvantaged by putting themselves at the bottom of the pile, because they have no skills.
“I exhort you, therefore, to use the time and the resources available through this fund. And I continue to appeal to the trade unions to encourage displaced workers who may be displaced in the coming weeks and advise them accordingly,” she declared.
Byer-Suckoo warned the unemployed that the fund would not be available to them “forever”, explaining that it would only benefit persons as they became jobless, and not something they could put aside and return to years later.
But while the minister was saying that Government has a multimillion-dollar retraining fund to help unemployed Barbadians retool, hundreds were being turned away every year from getting training for new jobs in the technical and vocational fields.
Director of the Barbados Vocational Training Board, Henderson Thompson, informed Barbados TODAY that a serious lack of physical space at the same resource centre was forcing his agency to reject too many people who wanted to equip themselves for the job market.
“Our big demand areas are in electrical installation. We could never cater, currently, with the space we have, for the demand . . . . I believe that SJPP suffers a similar fate. We work with them, especially for our apprenticeship programme, where sometimes we are cramped for space, because they have their space for their training. But we ask them to train our apprentices,” he pointed out.
However, the BVTB director noted that any year the SJPP did not have space, then it could not train the board’s apprentices. Thompson also informed this newspaper that the other areas of demand in which Barbadians were being turned away included plumbing, masonry, the big construction industry and cosmetology.
“We only have,” the Vocational Training Board executive continued, “the one classroom here (in cosmetology). It limits us to what we can offer. Let’s say we a hundred people applying for cosmotology, we can only take in as many as 16. We are turning back too many numbers; and then it’s increasing year after year.”
“So if we had the space, I am certain we have the experts to come and teach; so I am not worried about getting the resources; it is just the space and the new technology to satisfy the demands out there.”
Thompson said that the board, whose programme had recently been formally accredited by the international vocational education organization City & Guilds Institute of London was encouraging people to be trained for jobs, not only in Barbados, but regionally and globally as well.
“Because that’s where the jobs are,” he declared.
The official noted, too, that the lack of adequate facilities could negatively impact on the outcome of assessments by personnel from the City & Guilds when they visit the resource centre to review the programme.
“It [accreditation] would mean the world to us. If we had the space, when the accreditors come and do the assessments, they would know we have the space, we have the technology, we have the staff well trained. That is where we get our recognition, that is where we get our people out of the country working, and the remittances coming back into Barbados.”
Thompson argued that whie the centre at Sayes Court currently trained persons in Bobcat and back hoe operations, it was not done in a safe environment.
“Heavy duty equipment on this compound. Jostling for space within the car park and around the compound; the construction trades; and that is a danger and something we need to correct. And one of the things we are going to request from the ministry and the Government is space –– and the private sector,” stated the BVTB director. “If we can get about ten to 15 acres of land, where we can move those heavy duty construction trades, then we can expand our programmes in that area,” disclosed Thompson.