Supermarket boss to co-chair employment task force

Chamber chief, Dart boss also involved

Woody Foster
Woody Foster

A task force involving senior business leaders will help steer government’s new back-to-work initiative for unemployed Caymanians.

Premier Alden McLaughlin and Foster’s Food Fair boss Woody Foster will co-chair a task force of public and private sector figureheads steering the Ready2Work Cayman project.

New Chamber of Commerce boss Paul Pearson and Dart group Chief Executive Officer Mark VanDevelde will also be involved, the government announced Thursday.

Mr. McLaughlin described the initiative as a “welfare to work” initiative that could help bridge the gap between unemployment and long-term job opportunities for the unemployed.

He welcomed the involvement of senior business leaders in shaping the program.


The premier has already revealed that $1.7 million from the Labour Department budget has been earmarked for the program. Government will attempt to match workers with private sector jobs, and will pay their salaries and benefits for up to six months. Participants, numbering about 245, will be identified through National Workforce Development Agency.

In an update Thursday, Mr. McLaughlin said the task force had held its first meeting, signaling the official launch of the program, which he said would be one of three initiatives directed at addressing unemployment among Caymanians.

He said statistics show a slight decrease in local unemployment levels since his government took office.

But he has previously highlighted the issue as the “Achilles’ heel” of his administration and acknowledged that more needs to be done.

“There is a segment of our society for which more can be done to assist them in breaking through the barriers to meaningful full time employment,” he said.

Mr. McLaughlin said he was extremely pleased at the enthusiastic response of business leaders and their willingness to participate.

Mr. Foster said, “I am excited to work on this initiative and give it everything I have to assist in putting Caymanians to work in a sustainable way.”

The involvement of Chamber president Mr. Pearson was heralded as a step forward in the relationship between government and the business lobby group. Only last week Mr. Pearson and outgoing Chamber President Barry Bodden indicated the Chamber had not been consulted over the scheme.

In a statement Wednesday, Mr. Pearson said the two parties had agreed to work more closely together on the issue of unemployment in particular.

“It only makes sense for the Chamber as the most representative voice of the business community to be working in partnership with government to support and propose policies and initiatives that improve the business and labor environment,” he said.

“We may have differences of opinion and positions on some issues, but it is more important that we keep the channels of communication open.”

Mr. McLaughlin said, “I am pleased that a new president and Executive Committee of the Chamber has provided the opportunity of a renewed partnership between government and the Chamber of Commerce. I look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship which serves the interest of both the business community and the people of the Cayman Islands.”

Other members are Education and Employment Minister Tara Rivers, private sector members Paul Pearson, Mark VanDevelde, Garth Arch, Mark McIntyre and Betty Baraud, Community Affairs, Youth and Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden and Deputy Chief Officer, Strategic Reforms Dr. Tasha Ebanks-Garcia. Ex-officio members are Senior Political Adviser to the Premier Roy Tatum and Ready2Work KY Coordinator Tania Ebanks.