New unit to regulate apprenticeship programs of major developers

Labour Director, John Pinder.

Pinder says the work of the unit could reduce work permits

NASSAU BAHAMAS – A special project unit is being created in the Department of Labour to provide compliance oversight of all apprenticeship programs that developers in The Bahamas have agreed to establish via their heads of agreement with the government, according to Department of Labour John Pinder.

In an interview with Eyewitness News Online, Pinder said the unit is expected to be fully established by September, following which it will engage in a review process.

“The unit’s responsibility will be to follow up on understudy, apprenticeship [programs], and so, that will come in the purview of that unit, which will also cover training programs,” he said.

“When you apply for a labour certificate and you tell me than John is understudying Mary, you [would] need to provide us with a copy of that training, and what was learned during the first month and second month for example.

“And then, we [would] send the unit team in to meet with the employee who is being trained for the position and ask them questions. He or she would have to signoff on that.

“If not, when the [developer] comes back to us for renewal, we will reject it.

“That is one of the things that we are trying to implement right now.

“So, as it relates to these heads of agreements, it speaks to the training of certain staffers to ensure they are able to meet the demands of the job market; we will also take that into consideration and start to follow up on those.

“So, when they (developers) say they are going train 30 people, we will get the names of the 30 individuals and visit the center where they are being trained and have them signoff that they are being trained.”

Pinder said a proposal for the unit has been submitted to Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes for Cabinet approval.

He said he expects the regulations of the Employment Act to be expanded to give the department greater jurisdiction relating to training, apprenticeship programs.

For example, in the heads of agreement between the government and the Wynn Group for a $120 million condo-hotel and residences development, the developer agreed to a training and apprenticeship program for employees that is expected to be rolled-out in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and BTVI.

The ongoing project is estimated to provide 350 construction jobs and more than 150 permanent ones.

Baha Mar also has an apprenticeship component in its heads of agreement.

Rosewood at Baha Mar has an international apprenticeship program that trains in conjunction with the Baha Mar Academy, the entity primarily responsible for training and recruitment of the resort’s employees.

Baha Mar employees more than 4,000 people and it expects to add another several hundred more workers as operations ramp up.

It opened Rosewood in May 2018.

April marked two years since Baha Mar’s Grand Hyatt opened its doors.

In the heads of agreement with Oban Energies for the construction of a $4 billion oil refinery and $1.5 billion liquid bulk facility in East End, Grand Bahama, Oban must put in place a multi-disciplinary on the job technical skills training apprenticeship program designed to equip its Bahamian employees with “the level of technical proficiency reasonably necessary for promotion and advancement”.

That agreement signed in February 2018, is being renegotiated to better benefit Bahamians.

When asked for an update on negotiation outside Cabinet yesterday, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes, who heads the renegotiation subcommittee, declined to comment.

In The Pointe’s development on Bay Street, which is expected to be completed during the second quarter of 2010, the developer has committed to increasing the Bahamian workforce during subsequent phases of the project.

The development is expected to bring on 500 permanent jobs.

 

IDB

In July 2018, the government signed an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for a $50 million jobs and skills program, for which the IDB will lend The Bahamas $20 million, while the government provides the remainders.

The program seeks to address the skills shortage in the country, the limited capacity of job seekers to connect with opportunities in the job market and the limited use of job market intelligence.

According to government officials, the first component of the program involves and apprenticeship program and an advanced apprenticeship program for the unemployed, as well as school leavers between the ages of 16 and 40.

Participants of the program are expected to receive a stipend.

The apprenticeship program is expected to focus on three industries: information and technology, maritime and shipping and medical services.

The program is foreshadowed to accommodate over 2,000 people.

According to the latest statistics from the Department of Labour, joblessness nationally stood at 10.7 percent in October 2018, up from the 10 percent reported in the last period – May 2018.

Discouraged workers, those who have given up searching for employment, declined in November by 6.7 percent.