A pilot program to get jobless Caymanians back to work proved a resounding success and could be expanded to help tackle the wider unemployment problem, organizers say.
The ReStart initiative, set up by recruitment agency Baraud, led to full-time employment for 17 of the 22 people who enrolled in the 13-week program.
The agency now wants to partner with government to put more job seekers through the scheme. But bosses, who put their own money into the pilot project, say they would need some funding to roll it out on a national scale.
The firm will be meeting with government officials in the coming weeks to discuss the future of the program.
Baraud initially paired 22 people from the National Workforce Development Agency’s database with 22 local companies.
Entrants completed a week of training with Baraud, followed by 11 weeks of paid full-time work with the employer and a final week of assessment. They were supported throughout by Baraud, which also covered their pension and healthcare costs as an incentive to employers to take a chance on candidates who had been unemployed for long periods of time.
Stefan Cohen, senior recruitment manager for Baraud, said the program provided a support structure for both employer and employee to help them through the sometimes difficult transition. Baraud will provide follow-up support for the next six months.
“I think, for the employers, it gave them a comfort factor to go ahead. We had overwhelming support from the private sector. We have already had 17 new employers, some with multiple jobs, come to us wanting to be involved next time.
“It shows that the jobs are out there. It is a matter of matching candidates to the right jobs and giving them the support they need to succeed.”
He said going back to work after months, sometimes years of unemployment, could be a daunting experience, and support and coaching was critical.
“The ongoing support function that we provided has proven to be pivotal. Some of the candidates needed encouragement along the way to stick with the program, so we acted as intermediary to candidates and employers and, in a couple instances, managed to prevent people from leaving.”
Baraud put its own money behind the project – a partnership with the National Workforce Development Agency and the Employment Ministry. It believes the program could work for many more out-of-work Caymanians but would need to be backed financially by government.
“We got involved as a nonprofit venture because we saw the scale of the problem and wanted to do something about it. I think we have shown that this can work,” Mr. Cohen said.
He said the program covered a wide range of jobs, including legal, retail, medical telecommunications and fund administration.
“There was an overall lack of confidence from people who felt discouraged from being unemployed for long periods,” Mr. Cohen said. “The ReStart program addressed this by covering the training needed and having employers already signed up to the program meant that there were ‘real jobs’ available.”