Ready2Work KY project tackles unemployment

Dr. Tasha Ebanks Garcia

The Ready2Work KY pilot project aims to support local employers as they seek to hire and retain Caymanian employees. It also provides support and services to unemployed Caymanians, to help them access and maintain employment. The pilot will close in January, 2017. Dr. Tasha Ebanks Garcia is leading a project team from the National Workforce Development Agency and the Needs Assessment Unit.

Q1: Why does this project matter?

A: This project matters because our people matter. This project matters because the effect of unemployment is far reaching. From crime levels, to student performance, to harmony in marriage, unemployment influences all areas of our life and our community. This project matters because despite unemployment trends moving in the right direction some of our people still remain unemployed and they matter.

Q2: This project was introduced in Feb 2016, within 3 months of the formal launch of the Project Future programme.  How did it move forward so quickly?

A: This was largely due to the fact that since 2013 the Cayman Islands Government has engaged in strategic efforts to address unemployment. While the planning phase for this project formally began in November 2016, the work that was needed to provide the foundation to deliver of this project had already taken place. This positioned the civil service to move this project forward rather quickly.

Q3: So what specifically is this project delivering?

This project is piloting a concept for addressing unemployment, drawing on research conducted by the Cayman Islands Government and through collaboration with key stakeholders. It provides for: an assessment of the skills, interest, abilities and any barrier to employment; soft and technical skills training; support with recruitment activities; guidance as job seekers transition into employment; group support and individual coaching; and support in accessing services needed to address any barriers to employment.

Q4: This project has already delivered some tangible results.  Tell us about these.

A: Every week we are seeing successes as participants take steps on their journey to accessing long term employment. One key result is that as of December 8th, we had 108 active participants in the programme.  And of those, 61 persons are employed – 30 persons are in long-term employment and another 31 are in short-term/probationary employment that has the real potential of transitioning into long-term employment. The other participants are engaging with activities and services provided by the programme to make themselves job ready.

Ready2Work KY participants engaged in training, development and recruitment activities.

Q5: What can you tell us about how the project is impacting the people participating in the project?

A: We have seen changes that are not so easily reported through hard data. We have seen the level of confidence increase among participants, improved skills in the area of communication, conflict resolution and the ability to work well with others and in a team environment. We have seen the level of self-awareness increase as participants take responsibility for their actions and begin to hold themselves accountable for their performance and the choices they make.

Q6: Are employers on board?

A: Employers have told us that having the support of the Ready2Work KY Team as they seek to employ Caymanians has been helpful. Employers have shared that they can now focus on their business while the Ready2Work KY team provides the support needed to job seekers as they transition into employment.

Q7: How much has the project cost so far?

A: The good news is that the project is under budget! In 2015/16 $14,248.56 was spent from a budget of 459,576.00. So far only $91,614.54 has been spent from the 2016/17 budget of $1,205,000.00. Should the decision be made to continue with R2W KY after the close of the pilot any savings will be put towards the continued delivery of the programme.

Q8: So based on what you have learned through this project so far, what are some of the most effective things we can do help Caymanians who are unemployed find work?

A: This project has emphasized the importance of drawing on data to inform the direction of travel. For this project we used data from the June 2015 IMCE Report to determine what elements we needed to include in this employment programme in order to design a programme that met the needs of both employers and job seekers.

After reviewing the June 2015 IMCE report we learnt that the most important thing that we can do to help Caymanians who are unemployed is to empower them with skills and support them to overcome any barriers.

We have also learnt that programmes like this must focus on creating long-term, sustainable change. By empowering Caymanians with the skills they need to accesses and maintain employment, we create a community where people can independently access employment, successfully transition from one job to the other, and navigate the labour market on their own.

Q9: What is the most important thing you will take away from this experience?

A: Project Future has challenged us in ways that we had never been challenged and has done so in a very public forum. Almost simultaneously we were moving forward with the delivery of projects, receiving the necessary training and changing systems and processes. While some note the amount of time that has lapsed since the release of the EY Report, the catalyst for Project Future, what people often fail to note is the work that has been accomplished across the civil service as it prepared to take on this massive change agenda; work that has fundamentally changed the way we do business. From this experience I walk away very proud to be a Civil Servant.