By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government will launch a $22m apprenticeship programme aimed to reduce youth unemployment, Prime Minister Christie announced during his 2016/2017 Budget Communication yesterday.
The programme will be jointly managed by the Office of the Prime Minister and the National Training Agency, he said.
Mr Christie said yesterday that under the government’s new programme, $22m has been allocated so people can be “paid to work and train in a very formal manner, with certification on completion of the apprenticeship period”.
Perhaps anticipating criticism, Mr Christie said the programme is unlike the 52-week jobs programme created by the former Ingraham administration in 2011 that was bashed by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), then in opposition, as an attempt to sway votes ahead of the 2012 general election.
That programme paid and placed Bahamians who were unsuccessful at finding jobs in various positions in both the private and government sector. The employers then had the option to permanently hire the workers if they so desired after 52 weeks.
In criticising the plan, the PLP said some people paid under the scheme did not show up to work.
In speaking yesterday about his government’s new apprenticeship programme, Mr Christie said: “The programme differs from the jobs programme introduced by the previous administration in that it is not strictly about job placement for the unemployed but rather training to ensure that persons are able to attract and retain long-term employment.
“The government also intends to employ immediately individuals from the apprenticeship programme to work on the creation of two green spaces for public use in New Providence. One will be situated at Lake Killarney and the other, at the National Heroes Park, in an area just south of the Botanical Gardens. We have promised a National Heroes Park and now it is being brought about.
“Young people with an aptitude and willingness to learn professional landscaping will be engaged to assist with the development of these green spaces and will be apprenticed to professional and skilled landscapers. Both of these projects will be co-ordinated and managed by the Parks and Beaches Authority with Lake Killarney being done in concert with Bahamas National Trust and the Nature Conservancy,” he said.
Mr Christie said the programme is structured similarly to a programme that already exists between the government and the Grand Bahama Shipyard Ltd (GBSL). The GBSL plan is expected, he said, to increase its intake under its apprentice programme “for skilled trades to 40 per year, of which roughly three quarters will be trade apprentices and one quarter technical/commercial apprentices.”
He added: “At the end of the training period, the trainees will be assessed and certified by external, US examiners and will then work alongside experienced workers for a six- to 12-month period to become fully proficient in their respective trades.”
Mr Christie similarly announced last year that $20m was allocated through Urban Renewal to deal with youth unemployment. That programme was launched in conjunction with the Inter-American Development Bank.
Specifics were not given, but Labour and National Insurance Minister Shane Gibson said that programme would identify at-risk youth and provide them with “training and capacity building” that would equip them with new skills.
There has not yet been a public accounting of the progress made under that programme.
Nonetheless, according to data by the Department of Statistics in December, youth unemployment increased by nearly five per cent in the second part of last year compared to the previous period for which a survey was conducted.
The unemployment rate for people aged 15 to 29 was recorded at 30 per cent.
Yesterday, Mr Christie also said, within the fiscal year, the government will seek to bring the number of temporary and contractual workers to an irreducible minimum.