A group of unemployed women is taking part in a pilot mentorship programme to prepare them for success in the workplace.

The Mentorship Programme, which began in May, is a collaborative initiative between the Business and Professional Women’s Club and the government’s Needs Assessment Unit and Department of Children and Family Services.

Six women are taking part in the pilot programme, which was created to address the lack of job opportunities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and enhance the career opportunities for individuals.

“Many people in our community and globally have been displaced from employment due to the current pandemic,” said Mehr Petkovsek, chair of the Young Business and Professional Women’s Club. “Even prior to that, there were several barriers for persons, particularly women, attempting to enter or re-enter the workforce.

“These barriers have been exacerbated by the pandemic and include childcare, transportation, professional attire, access to technology and much more. This programme helps to address the barriers for those looking to enter the workforce and reduce reliance on the social assistance systems through a holistic approach.”

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That approach comprises incorporating job readiness, vocational, technical, life skills training, financial assistance, reduction of barriers, as well as a mentorship component, coaching, administrative and social work support.

Organisers said the pilot is scheduled to run until February 2022, but may be extended based on the vocational training programmes in which the participants are enrolled.

Impacted by COVID

The participants were chosen by the Needs Assessment Unit and the Department of hildren and Family Services as they had been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and were identified “as having the ability and potential to be employed given the appropriate support”.

The programme is designed to take into consideration the individual interests and skillsets of the participants, ultimately assisting them to pursue a career path that is best suited for them.

“The goal of the programme is to support participants to access vocational training that will allow them to gain an employable skill through the programme. Participants have expressed interest in a variety of training courses, such as administrative, legal secretary, social work, and auto mechanics,” Lois Kellyman of the DCFS said.

The programme is broken into phases. During the first phase, the participants attend a Tools for Success Programme – a career-readiness initiative at Inspire Cayman Training. They attend classes twice per week and are expected to graduate from Tools for Success at the end of August.

Throughout the duration of the programme, participants also access monthly life-skills classes on a variety of topics, which are hosted by BPW in partnership with other organisations.

Focus on gaining skills

During the second phase, participants will access further training and development activities, focussing on technical and vocational skills in a field of their choice, taking advantage of internship/work experience opportunities, and pursuing employment opportunities.

The participants will be matched with mentors who are BPW members, who will receive training along with their mentees. The programme also assists in helping the mentees build their network by introducing them to other professionals, such as other BPW members or presenters.

“The expectation will be that mentors and mentees connect at least on a monthly basis and that the mentees become integrated into the BPW organization where they will be exposed to the work of BPW and have the opportunity to gain supplementary skills, while being active members of the community,” Petkovsek said.

Each participant is also assigned a social worker from DCFS’s Case Management Unit, who assists them with identifying their goals, developing action plans, and coaching and guiding them along their journey.

R3 Cayman Foundation is donating up to $55,000 for this programme, dependent on spending, which will be used to pay for training sessions, stipends for participants and a programme facilitator.

As part of R3’s recovery mandate, the foundation is providing funding to non-profits which include a mentorship component in their programmes to assist people whose job opportunities have been limited by the COVID-19 pandemic, and provide them tools for the future. The mentor programme also received an additional donation of $5,000 from the Needs Assessment Unit to help cover costs for such things as childcare and transportation.

Anyone interested in learning more about how they can support the participants of the mentorship programme, can contact Mehr Petkovsek at [email protected].

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