A volunteer group that held a drive to register out of work Caymanians last week, said short term employment initiatives used by government will not address the problems in the job market. At the same time, its members have promised to do all they can to assist those who have been falling through the cracks to get the jobs they need.
Caymanians Against Economic Injustice (CAEI) registered more than 200 people on Thursday and Friday, when it set up shop outside the Government Administration Building on Elgin Avenue.
“We’re not working against the other agencies. We’re hoping to augment and support what’s already out there but realising that not everyone is technologically savvy, not everyone has access to go online and access this information that they are directed to and we felt it was time for us to go to the public and see how we could assist,” said Lorna Bush, a spokesperson for the group. She was referring to the online jobs portal that government’s National Workforce Development Agency (NWDA) has for Caymanians seeking employment.
Ms Bush said group members, many of whom have HR experience, were able to immediately recognise help that jobseekers visiting them needed, like being able to put together a CV (resume). “We were able to do that right there on the spot,” she said.
CAEI members were also armed with job ads from the classified sections of Friday’s various newspapers to help identify any potentially suitable jobs for those who came to register. However, Ms Bush said the group realised that not everyone who came was “job ready” but she said that should not be a deterrent from helping such persons.
“They’re still our people and we have to find out what is wrong. If there is a mental health problem, then we need to find the help that they need. Cayman cannot continue on the trajectory where we just sweep things under the carpet and pretend that everything is fine in paradise because everything is not fine,” she said.
Ms Bush said a quick glance at those who came out showed it was mainly blue collar jobs being sought like housekeeping positions in the hospitality industry and those in construction. The group planned to spend the weekend collating the information gathered during the two-day drive. The next step would be to help “brush up” the skills of those in need of that type of assistance. Then, after that, CAEI has promised to go straight to employers to help provide a solution.
“We intend to go as advocates for these people directly to the source of those people who are advertising and we’re going to say to them we have two people [or] three people available that can fill this vacancy. ‘Are you prepared to give them a chance?’…We’ll go in love. We’ll go in peace,” Ms Bush explained.
She said all the group is asking of employers is to follow the law and give available Caymanians a fair shot to fill any vacancies before seeking a work permit to bring in someone from outside. Additionally, CAEI has vowed to go the full way to help applicants get a foot in the door.
“One of our people will accompany that person to the interview for a number of reasons,” Ms Bush said, explaining this is “to ensure that they are there on time, to ensure that they are appropriately dressed, and to eliminate some of the excuses that we hear about people not showing up or not showing up on time.”
As her group tries to play its part in reducing the number of Caymanians in search of work, Ms Bush said recent government initiatives like the NiCE Project and Ready2Work KY do not address the problem and delay finding a real solution.
The NiCE Project provided opportunities for people to earn money by assisting with a national beautification exercise during the Christmas holiday period, while Ready2Work KY is a partnership with the private sector that will see government cover the employment costs over a six-month period for people hired by private companies. Government has allocated $1.7 million for the latter, as the unemployment rate among Caymanians hovers around eight per cent.
However, Ms Bush described those as classic cases of giving someone a fish to eat today instead of teaching them to fish and have the ability to feed themselves for life. She suggested government shorten the life of Ready2Work KY to three months and split that budget in half and spread it out to include training.
She explained that with normal probationary periods lasting three months, government would cover the costs for that time and at the end of it, employers should know if they have found good employees.
“If they are, then you would have gotten a good employee on the backs of government. If the person is not working out, then you send them back outlining what was wrong why at the end of three months you didn’t feel that you could take that person on,” she proposed.
“If they did that, and split that budget right down the middle [with]$850,000 to the work programme and $850,000 to training and development of the people through the trade schools that they have been promising,” Ms Bush said.
“I think that [not having technical and vocational training] is a great travesty. Not only are they not keeping a campaign promise but they are depriving those who genuinely want to upskill and be trained,” she added.