EDITORIAL – Ready2Work: Government’s latest ‘freebie’

We give the government credit for creativity, but we are skeptical that the newly announced “Ready2Work KY” program will succeed in addressing Caymanian unemployment.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said $1.7 million from the Labour Department budget has been earmarked for the program, where the government will attempt to match workers with private sector jobs and pay their salaries and benefits for up to six months. Participants in the program, numbering about 245, will be identified through National Workforce Development Agency records.

Again, we are certainly not criticizing the government for attempting something novel, and we don’t deny that Caymanian unemployment merits attention from the government. That being said, the “Ready2Work KY” program appears to be more of a scheme than a serious plan.

Rather than a sound effort to ensure that Caymanians are prepared to compete in the private sector, the new program constitutes the dangling of carrots, which are, of course, attached to sticks by way of strings. Every employer who goes for the carrot risks a beating by the stick.

No wise businessperson enters into a consequential arrangement without having an exit plan. Any business that accepts one or more of these “candidates” from government must consider that there may be pressure or consequences from government if it doesn’t work out.

A business which takes in a candidate must be able to fire, suspend or discipline that candidate just like any other employee, or else it could disrupt the human resources dynamic throughout the company.

If the government is interested in matching unemployed workers with private sector vacancies, that’s precisely what should be done, and nothing more. There is no compelling reason for government to pony up six months’ salary. If a company can’t afford to pay the salary on Day One, how will it afford it six months later?

The deal can, and should, be far simpler: The NWDA can introduce unemployed Caymanians to employers who have vacancies that align with their skills. If the employer likes the candidate, they’re hired. No carrots, no strings, no sticks.

Indeed, we believe that’s supposed to be one of the core duties of NWDA. The common complaint we hear from employers is that NWDA routinely sends obviously unqualified prospects to fill private-sector positions. Then the employer has the tedious burden of justifying the obvious: why it didn’t hire them.

Allow us a modest proposal: If government wants to put unemployed Caymanians to work in the private sector, and fast, the appropriate minister should pick up the phone and call Gene Thompson. Mr. Thompson is not a bureaucrat; he’s a businessman, and he gets things done. More important, he is committed to the hiring and training of Caymanians — and he’s got the track record to prove it.

During the continuing development of Health City Cayman Islands, Mr. Thompson drove nearly everybody nuts — including many of his subcontractors — by insisting that they populate their workforces with hard-working, responsible and reliable Caymanians. Even Northward Prison alumni were welcomed. “Second chance” people were not only welcomed, they were recruited. On his job sites, he doesn’t lower standards, but raises expectations and, as a rule, his workforce rises to, or exceeds, those expectations.

Believe us, Mr. Thompson is not looking for a job, but if we were dealing with Cayman’s chronically and structurally unemployed, we would do some recruiting of our own with the objective of putting Mr. Thompson, or someone with his drive and mindset, on the job.
Then we would get out of their way.