Jordan: Success of job programmes depends on youth performance

Minister of Labour Colin Jordan has offered a timely reminder to Barbadians that the success of local employment programmes depends on their ability to perform well when out on placement.

Jordan was making this point in the House of Assembly during his ministry’s time in the Well debating the Appropriation Bill, 2024. He was responding to a query from Ryan Straughn, Minister in the Ministry of Finance, who was asking about the challenges faced by the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Third Sector when carrying out its duty.

“If you are included in the programme and you ‘misbehave’ then you make it difficult for the employer to think about engaging further,” Jordan explained. “That happens both locally with Jobs Start Plus as well as with our overseas programmes and I thought I needed to use this opportunity to say that. We have had a few challenges with respect to interpersonal relationships. The participants have to make sure that they do not burn down the ladder; that they do not burn down the bridge. We have to make sure we compart and deport ourselves properly so that employers will be willing to continue in these programmes.”

The Jobs Start Plus programme began in December 2019 and was designed with the aim of creating opportunities for individuals to gain their first job or to give those who had little experience up to one year’s work experience.

Manager of the People Development Programme, Erika Watson, provided more details about the programme since its inception.

She said, “We target those between the ages of 16-24. It started in December 2019 and got quick buy-in but COVID-19 happened and things slowed down. Since the economy is recovering,  we have seen an uptick in terms of our partners providing these opportunities for the young persons. Despite the slowdown, we were able to place up to 251 people across different sectors for this programme.

“As of January, we have placed 105 people and we are hoping we are going to get to 150 by the end of the financial year. Our annual target is 350 but the reality is there are challenges in terms of finding the partnerships because there are not that many opportunities that allow for young persons who do not have much skills, training or experience. It is also because in terms of the economy, the challenges of paying the young persons because in the programme there is a stipend paid while they are working. There are not many opportunities where you can take in a young person without experience because their mistakes can cost the business,” Watson concluded.

Despite those challenges, she told the House of Assembly that as the programme becomes known there is an uptick in opportunities from the tourism, manufacturing, wholesale and retail sectors.

Jordan was quick to shut down any concerns that [the] passing of the Caribbean Community (Movement of Skilled Nationals) (Amendment) Bill, 2024, which expands the freedom of labour movement across the Caribbean Community, would have any impact on local employment, especially among those entering the workforce for the first time.

“While there are persons in Barbados who are not employed, many of those persons do not want particular jobs. Even if there are jobs available in specific areas, they (locals) are not taking advantage of those opportunities. The Ministry of Labour’s philosophy is grounded in a regional philosophy in that it understands Barbados is part of a Caribbean civilisation. It recognises that Barbados cannot develop on its own.”

The Caribbean Community (Movement of Skilled Nationals) (Amendment) Bill, 2024 was passed on February 20 and makes better provision for agriculture workers, domestic workers and private security officers. 

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