A planned $1.7 million back-to work program for the unemployed has cost less than 5 percent of the amount budgeted after the majority of employers turned down government’s offer to pay salaries for risky new hires.
Tasha Ebanks Garcia, deputy chief officer in the Ministry of Employment and Education, said the actual spending equated to $700 per person, roughly $80,000 in total.
“For $700, we have 55 people now employed and another 56 in training and recruitment programs on their way to employment,” she said.
The surplus money will go to extending the program into 2017 and to help fund any expansion of the services provided based on an evaluation of this year’s pilot program.
The Ready2Work scheme, introduced in January, initially involved an offer from government to pay up to six months’ salary as an incentive for companies to take on jobless Caymanians.
Officials said Tuesday that most employers had not taken the stipend and had been willing to hire and pay workers gleaned from the National Workforce Development Agency’s database. The hiring was on a trial basis as part of the new program, which offers assessment and support in the first six months in an effort to reduce the risk and cost to companies in taking on new staff who have issues or barriers to employment.
So far, 23 people have found long-term work since the launch of Ready2Work, while 32 people are in short-term employment with the hope of moving to long-term work. Another 55 are in development programs, including job skills training or specific work addressing barriers to employment.
A total of 137 job-seekers entered the program in 15 intakes since February, with 111 still actively involved.
Ready2Work was open to everyone on the NWDA’s “job-seeker extended” program, which typically fluctuates between around 250 and 300 people seeking additional help in finding work.
Ms. Ebanks Garcia said only a third of employers had taken up the offer of a “stipend” to support the payment of salaries.
“Many of the employers are quite happy just receiving the support that the program provides,” she said.
The Ready2 Work program essentially provides a structured support system for businesses and employers to convince them to take on workers that they may not otherwise take a chance on.
Program coordinator Tania Ebanks said job-seekers went through an assessment to identify skills, interests and barriers to employment before going through 10 days of training on soft skills and job search techniques. Once they start working, they receive three assessments from their boss in their first six months of employment and work with the program’s staff on any issues identified.
She said Polar Bear air conditioning, Office Supply, Cost-U-Less and CIBC were among the first private sector partners to get involved by taking on staff from the program.
Employment Minister Tara Rivers said the program is proving value for money.
“Government did set aside a sizable potential budget; we have not had to spend what was allocated because, maybe companies did not actually take up the stipend opportunity, they decided ‘we just want the support, we will pay.’”
She said unemployment among Caymanians has been reduced by half in the last four years. Ms. Rivers noted that there has been a decrease in the number of people looking for temporary work through government’s Christmas cleanup program.
Ms. Ebanks Garcia said there is a waiting list for the Ready2Work program for next year. She said the program has not been without issues and there would be some analysis before the relaunch in February.
She said different government ministries may need to become involved to help those who were still struggling to cope in the workplace despite the support provided.
“If we don’t address the mental health needs and the special education needs among this adult population, they are not going to be able to access the training and development opportunities and they are going to have great difficulty in accessing and maintaining employment,” she said.