WORC addresses jobs portal ‘teething problems’

Fewer registered unemployed Caymanians than expected

Wesley Howell, chief officer in the Ministry of Employment and Border Control

Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman’s new jobs portal has been struggling with reliability and accessibility issues since its introduction earlier this year.

Wesley Howell, chief officer in the Ministry of Employment and Border Control said, so far, the portal had not been well received by employers.

Responding to questions by the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee last week, Howell explained that the interface had to be rushed to get the system up and running quickly, given the COVID-19-related lockdown and economic implications.

WORC had to abandon a pilot programme with businesses and individuals, who were testing the portal, and go live straight away. “It has been less than stellar,” Howell admitted, but he said it was necessary “to get something going”.

The development of the system continued and a new “enhanced version” is expected to go live this month, he said at the committee hearing on 30 July. This “will solve some of the teething issues that we’ve had with the current interface”.

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Howell said the sign-up of unemployed Caymanians had been lower than expected, despite WORC staff setting up booths outside their offices to help Caymanians register as unemployed on the portal.

The chief officer believes that many temporarily laid-off workers were waiting for the economy to pick up to see whether their jobs would re-emerge. They “didn’t quite consider themselves unemployed at that time and didn’t apply”, he said.

Others were “looking at their pension withdrawal” rather than register as unemployed, he said.

However, Howell also believes attitudes among unemployed Caymanians are changing.

A partnership with the Marriott Beach Resort to familiarise workers with hotel front-desk hospitality work saw much demand. The programme to help transition workers from the cruise sector to the stayover tourism part of the industry attracted 70 applications for six positions.

Howell said, “The pandemic has changed the outlook of a lot of Caymanians who would not have looked for jobs within the hotel sector and within other aspects of our economy. They are now looking at those possibilities. So, we are happy to be able to support them at this time, and to provide assistance there.”

Pressed by George Town Central MLA Kenneth Bryan on what the department was doing on the enforcement side to help get 3,000 unemployed Caymanians into jobs, Howell said, “Immediately prior to COVID-19, we had a well-worked system in relation to the enforcement actions in hotspots like Eastern Avenue, on job sites, construction sites, and even, in some cases, white-collar organisations.”

That task force involved three arms of enforcement, from the Department of Labour and Pensions, Customs and Border Control, and the Department of Commerce and Investment.

This led to numerous prosecutions and, in practice, often found multiple violations of various aspects of the law, Howell said. During the height of the COVID-19-control efforts in Cayman, many Customs and Border Control and WORC enforcement officers were reassigned in connection with the policing of lockdown measures.

They are now returning to their original function and once the amnesty for overstaying ends, there will be an increase in enforcement actions, he predicted.

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