Youth employment strategy coming

Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush recently announced the government would develop a young person’s employment strategy.

Mr. Bush said the Ministry of Education, Training and Employment in conjunction with the Department of Employment Relations had unveiled a proposal outlining its employment strategy for youths.

The initiative, which is being referred to as the ‘National Employment Passport Programme’ aims to work as a bridge between school leavers, tertiary education and employment opportunities, Mr. Bush said.

The emphasis of the programme is to educate school leavers on social skills such as workplace etiquette, resume writing and interviewing skills. In addition, academics, career paths and other components to improve overall employability are also part of the strategy, Mr. Bush said.

‘I am happy to report that representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, major private sector employers and various industry reps, to whom the proposal was presented, gave extremely positive feedback,’ he said, adding that many offers of support and interest in partnering with government on the initiative accompanied the positive remarks.

According to Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler, ‘This is the first time a multi-agency approach has been taken to the issue of creating a strategy that seeks to empower Caymanians with regard to education and employment.’

The concept of the programme is the product of a taskforce assembled by the Ministry of Education, the Department of Education Services, Employment Relations, and the University College of the Cayman Islands, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and John Gray High School.

Director of Employment Relations Lonnie Tibbetts, said his office has identified specific employment challenges with youths going into the workforce.

‘They need a bridge that improves their skill not just for a job, but a career, and grooms them for their interest in a particular area,’ he said.

The programme will consist of two days of academic training and two days of on-site work placement, which will be paid for either by the employer or the government.

Mr. Tibbetts also made a distinction between jobs and internships, saying he would like to see more youngsters gravitate toward the latter, as it is career oriented and not just a job placement for money.

There is also an extracurricular component to the proposed strategy, which includes providing certificates such as CPR and drivers licences in addition to diving certifications and other important skills that can may make a difference in job placement.

Conflict resolution, people skills and discipline are paramount at the high school level, Mr. Tibbetts said.

‘We have to teach our children how to act in different situations and not take for granted that they know.’

The multi-agency National Employment Passport Programme feasibility study is currently in its last sate. Students and unemployed persons now have the opportunity to give feedback on what is being proposed for them.

Mr. Tibbetts says many businesses do not have a budget for training and when youngsters are at the fork in the road deciding to go to further studies or join the work force, we can say, ‘You don’t have to feel pressure to do one or the other, but we will offer you both.’

This gives people the time to figure out what their skill sets are and make more informed decisions about how to approach their futures, said Mr. Tibbetts.

‘Entry level jobs are shrinking, while skill sets are growing and the electronic receptionist may mean the new entry level is for a more advanced position with a more rigid skill set being required.’

More information about how persons may get involved in the programme should be forthcoming through the Employment Relations Office and other involved agencies shortly.