Unemployed for a year and four months, Chriseta Thomas travelled from Clarendon to HEART College of Beauty Services Campus at Hope Road, St Andrew on Thursday in response to an invitation to apply for a job in the cruise industry.
But, upon arrival, she was daunted by a massive crowd and disorderly lines which stymied her effort as the agency, overwhelmed by the large number of jobseekers, stopped handing out application forms and, instead, directed them to send résumés to an e-mail address.
“I am unemployed, I am looking a job from long time. Is from 9:00 am I out here,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
“I went to HEART and I did housekeeping Level One and Level Two and failed Level Three, so I still decided to come out here with my certificates and still didn’t get through. It’s just disappointing,” Thomas added.
Marketing and communications manager at HEART/NSTA Julian Patrick told the Observer that the agency had advertised the job fair on its social media pages, and while most people appeared surprised by the response, he wasn’t.
“It is certainly a success. It is not symptomatic only of the HEART/NSTA Trust, but I think, in general, when you put out something about recruitment you tend to get an oversubscription. What happened today was that most people decided to turn up. I don’t think it should be considered a confusion,” he said, noting that he was unable to say how many application forms had been received up to late Thursday afternoon.
“The fact that there was an above normal turnout speaks volumes to the fact that persons are interested in options such as the cruise sector. It is a good benchmark to see the interest in a particular industry, and it gives us a good chance to measure and see where we are, what we will do next, and what we will improve on next,” he added.
“What is certainly of note is that the team on the ground was very agile, so as we saw the accretion of individuals on the ground, we started to become portable. Our team started to give information and registration outside to persons, and we also directed them online,” he said.
A HEART/NSTA flyer shared with the Observer invited applications for auxiliary services, restaurant services, food and beverage operations, guest operations, culinary arts, and accounting. The job fair was expected to run from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Jobseekers were required to carry their taxpayer registration number, résumé and a form of national identification.
By mid-morning, the line of job seekers snaked about 250 metres from the HEART campus gate on Hope Road on to Suthermere Road down to Constant Spring Road at the intersection with South Odeon Avenue.
Some people said they were waiting in line from as early as 4:00 am.
Like Thomas, other applicants became frustrated by the long lines and seeming lack of order.
A woman who gave her name as Miss Brown told the Observer that she had travelled from Ocho Rios with her brother to seek a better job opportunity but decided to leave as they were unable to get an application form.
“We work in the hotel industry, so we have a lot of experience, and then to hear about an opportunity to go overseas, we thought it would be good. But we didn’t expect something like this. It just shows the amount of Jamaicans that want to elevate themselves. They said they wanted 10,000 workers,” she said, noting that she saw the flyer on social media platform TikTok.
Her brother, who gave his name as Lewis, added, “We out here from after 7:00 am. A big joke thing. All now wi nuh get nowhere.”
Another man, who said he was from St Ann’s Bay, told the Observer that he arrived at the agency at 5:00 am. However, he, too, grew frustrated with the disorder.
“It nuh mek sense because everybody a fight fi get in; there’s no order. Better mi gwaan struggle inna mi likkle work a day time,” he said, while slowly walking away from the area.
“At the end of the day, a try mi try a ting fi better myself. If mi did know a so the process stay mi wouldn’t come, ’cause people who deh ya from morning nuh get through. This nuh make sense,” he added.
A woman who told the Observer she had travelled from Clarendon, said, “I saw it online. Mi just waste my time come out here, better mi just go back to work.”
Meanwhile a man who had come from Montego Bay, St James, expressed relief as he was able to submit an application.
“Mi deh out ya from 10:00 am. Mi see this as an opportunity to leave Jamaica for good and mi nuh waan come back. Mi waan better, nobody nuh waan stay a Jamaica. We just a try and hope for the best,” said the man, who declined to give his name but shared that he has been working in the tourism industry for more than 15 years.
Amid the crowd, there were whispers about application forms being sold for $50, as the organisation had stopped accepting people inside.
But a HEART/NSTA representative who came out to address the crowd, using a bullhorn, said application forms should not be sold and jobseekers should resort to submitting entries to the agency’s e-mail address, which was handed out on strips of paper.
Last month, during a function at Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett had announced that by June 5 approximately 10,000 Jamaicans would be recruited to work on cruise ships overseas.
He also said the recruitment drive comes at a time when the cruise sector and tourism, by extension, are showing signs of growth and is a telling indicator that Jamaican workers are viewed positively on the global stage.