Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am pleased to be with you this morning. Today marks the start of the Government’s Job Readiness and Training Initiative.
The need for jobs in The Bahamas is great. By and through this orientation we begin today, we seek to ensure that many, many more Bahamians are trained and skilled to take advantage of opportunities for jobs and to place even more persons in a position to have access to skills training to be employed when our economy rebounds and many, many more jobs come on stream.
A core priority therefore, of my Government is action to enhance the skills and job readiness of unemployed persons. To that end we created the National Job Readiness and Training Programme. Its aims are:
1. ensuring that job seekers have job readiness skills,
2. upgrading and enhancing skills;
3. making it possible for job seekers to acquire new skills, and
4. improving the marketability of the work-force of The Bahamas.
To achieve these objectives we invited the private sector to partner with us in the implementation of the Job Readiness and Training Programme. The response to our invitation from the private sector has been encouraging. Many employers have agreed to provide work experience and on the job training to improve the skills and to enhance the employability of the unemployed. Because of this response many, if not all of you, will be provided the opportunity for work placement and skills development through private sector employment exposure.
We will also make training opportunities available at the BTVI to individuals interested in a wide range of trades including auto-collision repair, masonry, welding, air-conditioning, tiling, dry wall installation, fashion design and manufacture etc.
Here in Nassau some 200 persons whose interests in skills training coincide with available training at BTVI will be accommodated in such training programmes beginning in the current semester. The Government will pay the cost of the training. And, the Government will provide a stipend to participants in the Programme at BTVI. And we will undertake a similar exercise at BTVI in Grand Bahama.
We remain in discussions with industry partners who provide technical training programmes themselves such as BORCO, the Container Port, and the GB Shipyard in Grand Bahama, with a view to funding any participant in the available training which those companies may offer. And, we will ensure that hundreds of training opportunities in the allied health and teachers aids areas and in other Government entities including BEC, and the Water and Sewerage Corporation are made available to unemployed job-seekers.
We are convinced that this programme represents will assist in upgrading the Human Resource Capacity, that is, the skill level and competences in our labour force. This will serve as a long term investment in the further growth and development of our economy.
Indeed, it is partly through the National Job Skills Training Initiative, that we seek to eliminate the disconnect that exists between what employers need and the capacity that exists to fill those needs.
The Orientation Programme in which you will participate during the next 2 weeks is the first phase of the Jobs Training Initiative. It seeks to provide a smooth transition into the workplace. The course work will focus on what are called “soft skills” needed to ensure success in the work place.
Soft skills are the non-technical skills, abilities and traits that workers need to function productively and effectively in the work place. These include work ethics, positive attitude, aptitude, reliability, punctuality, problem solving, social interaction, team work and time management. Employers agree about one common factor in successful recruitment efforts – that is, employees must have sufficient Soft Skills not only to get hired but remain employed. Getting the job is sometimes easier than keeping the job!
Today, 400 of you here in New Providence and 240 in Grand Bahama begin the two-week orientation seminar prior to your placement on the job.
You are here because you have been selected as the first set of participants in this programme.
And you will be paid the allotted $210 per week while you are in training less your contribution to NIB. At the end of your engagement, if you are not employed permanently, you will be eligible to receive an unemployment benefit from NIB.
You are the first of thousands who will over the coming weeks be selected to participate in this important national programme. We are phasing in participants in order to ensure that training opportunities are maximized in terms of the number and variety of employers participating as well as the organization of the mandatory orientation programmes such as this one.
We seek to match as closely as possible the training and placement interest expressed by applicants with the availability of spaces produced by participating employers and training institutions like BTVI. This effort makes it necessary for us to engage participants in segments. Hence, our inability to bring all successful applicants on at the same time everywhere.
It is our hope and expectation that your participation in this orientation seminar will put you in the best mindset and state of readiness to take advantage of the training and work experience you will have over the 52 weeks of your job placement including the 2 weeks of orientation. It is anticipated that having gone through the orientation that you will enter the workplace motivated and committed to a level of productivity that lifts both the employers’ and the nation’s prospects for further economic and financial success.
I urge each of you to take full advantage of this orientation programme in particular and the Job Readiness Programme in general. The country is making a handsome investment of in excess of $25 million in your training and job placement. We expect and require that you participate fully and make your employer and our economy, and indeed yourselves, better off. In order to make full use of the seminar, you must:
• Attend every session;
• Listen attentively;
• Fully participate in discussions and activities;
• Complete all assignments; and
• Work cooperatively with your trainers and fellow participants.
When you are placed on your jobs, in order to be exemplary employees, which we expect you will be, you must:
• Show up to work each day;
• Show up on time;
• Carryout fully all instructions given by your trainer/employer related to your placement;
• Learn as much as you can;
• Ask questions where necessary;
• Give suggestions where you can;
• Give a full day’s work;
• Respect your employer’s property, assets and customers; and
• Add value to your employer’s organization.
If you are prudent and productive, this 52 week work placement can turn into permanent placement for you, as was the case for hundreds of persons who participated in the Government’s Six-month programme initiated in 2008/2009.
I want to emphasize what a wonderful opportunity this Jobs Readiness and Training Initiative is for each of you. Your selection puts you in an enviable position. You are the first persons selected to begin this jobs readiness training.
The number of applicants seeking to participate in this programme demonstrates that our economy, like economies throughout the world, is severely affected by one of the worse global economic crises in a century. Unemployment is far, far too high in our country.
The Government cannot hire all unemployed persons. Indeed, the Government’s finances are stretched. You will be aware of projects which my Government has undertaken creating thousand of new jobs in the construction and allied services sector. Still, there is a limit to the burden which tax payers are able to afford.
That is why in addition to providing some stimulus to job creation; we are also taking advantage of opportunities for shorter term and temporary placements.
Our economy has begun to recover slowly; the economy is growing, though very modestly; not nearly fast enough to create needed jobs. We expect that within the next twelve to eighteen months job growth will pick up.
ENCOURAGING PERMANENT JOBS
While this Job Readiness and Training Programme is designed to last only 52 weeks, we seek to encourage an environment where many, if not all of the participants can find long-term employment, primarily in the private sector. It is our hope and expectation that a general improvement in the nation’s business and economic climate will assist in this regard. Be assured that we are doing all in our power to encourage the same.
We do not have the capacity to train more than 400 to 500 persons at the same time; hence we will be working with smaller size groups in Nassau, and in Grand Bahama. In the coming weeks others in Abaco, Eleuthera and elsewhere will join the programme; and so will persons from other Family Islands.
I wish you all success now and in the weeks ahead. Do well. Make us all proud.