(CNS): From over 100 participants in the government’s newest job placement scheme, just half of them have been placed in jobs so far and only half of those have permanent positions. There are 55 people who have been placed with employers through the Ready2Work initiative, with just 23 in long-term work and the rest in short-term posts. Another 56 people who signed up for the scheme are still in training and development, with almost 10% of the entire group struggling with barriers that prevent them from taking part.
The figures released by the employment ministry at a press meeting on Tuesday show that 137 people started on the programme, which began in February, but 26 people did not continue. On 18 November there were 111 active participants. From those, 55 are now working and 41 are in project-based training. One person is working part-time, three have secured internships or apprenticeships and 11 are being helped towards participation.
Speaking about the scheme, Dr Tasha Garcia-Ebanks told the local media that the initiative had faced significant obstacles and challenges. Many of the people who signed up for Ready2Work were a long way from being able to work and presented myriad problems for the team.
From people with no health insurance who are suffering from health-related problems, including mental health challenges that have no way of accessing treatment, to a lack of understanding about what is required in the workplace, many barriers have been identified and not all of them can be solved by the National Workforce Development Agency.
The need for health insurance for those who are not in work is a major problem, as the Cayman health insurance system is tied to jobs and the unemployed struggle to get health cover. She also pointed out that some people wanting to participate are in serious difficulties and it is difficult for them to commit to the pre-work placement training when they are homeless and don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
She said many were already clients of the Needs Assessment Unit or people who ought to be clients of that department, which is also helping to support the project. Those with childcare issues are encouraged to seek help from the NAU but Garcia-Ebanks said that there were provisions in the Ready2Work budget to help participants that have no access to child care.
With the main aim of the project to get more locals in work and reduce the number of people relying on government welfare, the team has spent a considerable amount of time with some of the participants working on what were described as “soft skills or the interpersonal skills” required to navigate the workplace.
The aim, Garcia-Ebanks explained, was to keep trying and assisting those who need the most help. The main challenge to help those struggling to find and retain work remains a lack of basic skills and problems with attitude, which the inter-ministerial council on employment found in their report was the main reason why people are sacked.
Some particularly good news is that of the 50 or so bosses that are taking part in the scheme, which offers subsidies to employers to cover health and pension benefits as well as part of the pay for the trainees they take on, only 37% of them have applied for the financial support. This has left plenty of cash in the Ready2Work budget to take the pilot forward in the New Year with another group. So far, the project is working out at just $700 per head for those that have been placed in work, which Employment Minister Tara Rivers said was exceptionally good value for money.
With unemployment coming down to 5.6% among locals and the numbers of people signed up with the NWDA also falling, the key is to focus on those remaining unemployed Caymanains that need the most help. Following the completion of the pilot, Garcia-Ebanks said, the data collected ahead of the next intake will help inform the demographics of the unemployed and drill down to identify exactly what else government must do to create a modern workforce that employers want to recruit, with permit holders being a last resort.