Cabinet Secretary, Steve Ferrol, has provided more information on what he described as a “special employment program” in the wake of Hurricane Maria initiated by the government and announced by Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, last week.
Ferrol said the program targets “personal job holders made redundant, displaced or otherwise out of a job as a result of Hurricane Maria” and will be for both the public and private sectors.
Last week Skerrit announced that 1,100 jobs will be created by the program to assist those affected by the devastating category five hurricane that ravaged the island in September 2017.
Ferrol explained on Monday morning that special supervision of the program “will remain under the portfolio of the Prime Minister and it will be administered through the cabinet secretary and under the general supervision of the Secretary to the Cabinet.”
He said the program is transitional, will be operated for a period of six months in the first instance and is expected to be up and running on March 1.
“The program itself should explore all job opportunities within the public sector and the private sector including opportunities within the firms and agencies that may have made the very persons redundant purely based on its inability to pay,” Ferrol stated. “Every effort will be made to refer all applicants who fall outside the scope of this program to other available government-provided opportunities.”
He noted that initial staffing will be for public officers who will be reassigned and allocated within the program.
Ferrol added that the program will first develop and update a listing of all redundancies and layoffs of workers as a result of the impact of Maria on businesses and agencies. It will research all possible jobs available and keep under review the listing of the job opportunities.
“In the private sector, the special focus will be on opportunities available on the companies and agencies from which the people were made redundant where the only reason is based on the company’s or agency’s ability to pay, where opportunities are available but at a future date, the job placement can be of a temporary nature up until the availability of the new positions,” he explained. “Focus will be placed on job openings as a result of new investments and expansion in existing businesses.”
He said in the public sector priority will be given to programs mainly involved in rebuilding after the storm.
“Some of the projects in key sectors such as housing, renovation and reconstruction, resilient agriculture, tourism, commerce, small business, social services, shelter management, clean up and infrastructural works, all will create opportunities for new jobs, new placements, though many may be of a temporary nature,” Ferrol pointed out. “Government may also have opportunities through projects sponsored by donor agencies and many have had the opportunities to work with donor agencies as we compliment some of government’s existing program. And these too will provide avenues for opening.”
He noted that those with creative self-employment ideas who come to the program will be referred to the “small business and other government programs.”
Ferrol pointed out that the enrollment process is simple with applicants making available evidence of redundancy “where that is possible.”
“Some people may have letters – the nature of the letters might help us decide whether there is potential for rehiring at the same firm depending on the drafting and nature of the redundancy letter,” he remarked. “Some may even have WhatsApp messages. I understand some people were dismissed through WhatsApp messages. So any evidence you have that may assist the officers, assisting with the enrollment would be appreciated.”
He said evidence of skill and qualification will be needed for placement in the best possible job although the job may not be equivalent to what was held before.
“If there is a confirmation of possible continued power, that would be appreciated as this will help us to contact the previous job provider or agency or company to discuss displacement,” Ferrol stated, adding that information provided by applicants must be accurate as best as possible.
He said an office for the program is expected to be located in the Financial Center and a telephone number and more information will be made available in the next couple of days.