The Mia Mottley-led administration has announced a series of initiatives designed to put Barbadians, particularly younger people to work.
Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations Colin Jordan told the Estimates debate in Parliament that the initiatives include a Job Start Plus programme to involve 500 young people, an expansion of the overseas agricultural labour exchange venture and a more aggressive outreach to the private sector for employment opportunities.
For instance, Jordan said some $1.5 million has been made available in the 2020-2021 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, which, among other things, would go towards providing young people with the job experience, the lack of which has been the major hindrance to being hired.
“The $1.5 million in the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure will see the Ministry of Labour and Social Partnership Relations having a pilot of our National First Jobs initiative called the Jobs Start Plus. That pilot will expect to involve 500 young people. The intention is to be fair in terms of the persons who are involved in the programme,” the minister said.
He told his colleagues in the various ministries that while he appreciated their desire to have their constituencies benefit, there were people outside of those ministries who were more vulnerable.
Jordan contended that the present administration did not practice the silos approach to governance.
“While the programme is ours, located in our ministry, we will use as part of the basis of our populating the programme, those persons who have been identified as the most vulnerable regardless of where those households spread in terms of geographical spread. So that will form one of the bases. Outside of that, we will try to be fair across the board,” he promised.
Jordan disclosed that the programme will seek to correct indiscipline among some young people by setting certain work ethics for them to follow, including punctuality, dress and putting in an honest day’s work.
“This programme is intended to give young people in the programme, 12 months of real work experience. It is also intended to create in the minds of people, a discipline that allows them…to get to work by 8 o’clock…put in your eight hours of work; dress appropriately for that work; understand that a lunch hour is what it says; that you don’t leave before your closing time and when you get your stipend, that you learn you have to put aside a little bit,” the Labour Minister declared.
Jordan said he hopes the private sector would partner with his ministry fully in this programme.
“We have gone out to many of the private sector partners already…we will be intensifying that outreach and requesting that they partner with us on that programme,” he stated.
Minister Jordan also gave the assurance that the initiative will operate on a needs basis and will endeavour to cover all categories of employment including highly qualified university graduates once the job is available in the private sector.
“This programme is only going to be successful if businesses come on board and provide the opportunities,” he contended. “We have started to intensify efforts in getting businesses to come on board. We have some, but we are intensifying that effort,” the Minister said.
The Minister also turned his attention to job opportunities which could be provided by artisans. He acknowledged some of the challenges they face. Conceding that some of those who are sole proprietors and lacking resources, may not secure a contract for a few months and then is out of work for a significant portion of the year before another job comes along.
“Government has had some focus group meetings where artisans have been involved and shared their views. The programme itself, Job Start Plus is the result of initiatives in the ministry, but has benefited from the input of a wider cross section of people including artisans,” Jordan noted.
“The $1.5 million in the Estimates for this programme includes assistance in paying the stipend. That stipend in Job Start Plus, we will be paying each of those young persons $800 per month. A significant portion of the $1.5 million will be used to assist artisans and very small businesses in the payment of this stipend to the young persons who are involved in the programme. Those young people will be assisting those artisans and will be helping them do some work,” Jordan disclosed.
However he said the more established businesses will pay the entire stipend to the young people.
With regards to the agricultural labour exchange programme, the Minister revealed that apart from the traditional market of Canada and most recently the United Kingdom, Government will be exploring the possibility of finding jobs in Suriname and Guyana.
Jordan told the House of Assembly that his ministry recently held discussions with Guyana on providing skilled labourers such as plumbers and welders to work in its emerging oil and gas industry. He noted that with Barbados also trying to develop its own offshore oil and gas sector, the Guyana experience would help local artisans to sharpen their skills for this country’s future petroleum development.
Minister Jordan admitted that there has been a falloff in the numbers of Barbadians working on the Canadian Agricultural Labour Exchange programme and the Government’s new thrust to penetrate new markets, including a possible 50 locals who will find jobs in the UK, should help change that.