Gov't working to have more people in overseas job programmeMonday, August 02, 2021
BY BALFORD HENRY
MINISTER of Labour and Social Security Karl Samuda says that his ministry is working on a strategy to widen the participation of Jamaicans in the United States' overseas employment programmes by more than 100 per cent within months.
“The market is there. The volume is there, and yet the portion of our workers engaged in these programmes is so minimal,” Samuda told the Jamaica Observer.
He said that, based on the evidence from his recent visit to the United States to view the activities, and his visits to the places of employment as well as the discussions he had with the market, he was forced to make the point that a lot more Jamaicans could find employment in the farm work and hospitality (hotel) programmes.
“I made the point that with the demand in the US now for our workers, especially the types of things that they do well, and the things that the Americans need to have done, the figure for us should not be limited to 13,000 annually, but we should be striving to reach a level of 30,000, within a matter of months, not years,” the minister said in an interview with the Observer on Friday.
“We must move from where we are, which is from a minimal approach, to an expansive approach, because we can create employment for our people in America, and it can benefit the Jamaican economy, significantly,” he said.
“Eighty per cent of all revenues earned by our farm and hospitality workers comes back home to Jamaica. So, with a market with a demand for workers like these in America which has grown so considerably, we are simply not taking advantage of it,” he said.
“I am going to be focusing my attention on promoting the business, and not accepting the limited amounts that we send to America each year,” he added.
In the meantime, he said the ministry has been strengthening its liaison officer corps, and reach out “in a more dynamic way” to attract the attention of US employers.
In response to Opposition MPs who had raised concerns about his statement to the Standing Finance Committee (SFDC) of the House of Representatives in May, that there was a problem with how the programme was being operated after taking up office following the 2020 General Election, he said that the situation has been improved considerably.
“We weren't satisfied with the (application) process. It was improving, but we had too far a way to go. One of the big problems was that when someone is recommended to the MP or the ministry's regional offices, a lot of the people who send in applications never hear back from the ministry,” he explained.
“Now, we are preparing to have them come in and do an interview and we process them and prepare them job ready for the programme,” he said.
He said that persons who are pre-selected are added to the pool of workers so that when there is demand for additional workers, they don't have to rush through the process which delays the programme.
He said that interested persons can still apply to the regional offices, but they have become more careful in processing them. However, MPs will still have the priority in selecting the candidates for the programmes, “because they have to share responsibility for the performance of the workers, and their attitude to work as well as their suitability for the job”.
Samuda recently returned to Jamaica from a visit to the United States touring farms where Jamaican farm workers are employed.
He used the visit to meet with current and prospective employers to promote the Overseas Employment Programme, in a move to strengthen the existing relationships and create new opportunities for their expansion and improvement.
The ministry said that despite the setbacks associated with the novel coronavirus pandemic, approximately 4,500 workers travelled on the programme to the United States in 2020.
Since January this year, 2,928 Jamaican farm workers have left the island for temporary employment on farms in the United States.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login