PHILIPSBURG–Labour Minister Emil Lee says “too many” employment permits are being issued to persons for positions that can be occupied by locals.
The minister was at the time delivering an address at the closing ceremony for a two-day International Labour Organisation (ILO) Train-the-Trainers workshop which wrapped up at the Workers Institute for Organised Labour (WIFOL) Building on Friday.
“I see that I am signing too many work permits for jobs that I think there is just no reason to be signing these, but the [applicants – Ed.] have gone through the process,” Lee said, noting that positions such as waiters, bartenders and security guards etc. can be filled by locals. “We have fundamental problems if we are granting permits for positions that really our people should be able to fill.”
Lee lauded the workshop participants, whose newly acquired skills can be used to equip persons in the local workforce with the tools needed to enhance their employability. Lee said he is happy to support such activities that help to bolster the local workforce. He alluded to the Caribcert programme, which he said had been an attempt at a regional certification programme, but this never gained momentum. “We worked hard on that, but it did not gain momentum so you have my full commitment when we are working towards those kinds of things.”
A total of 15 persons are now certified to train other persons for employability after having completed the ILO skills certification training conducted by ILO Specialist for Skills and Employability Hassan Ndahi. The two day training was coordinated by the Caribbean Institute for Social Education Foundation (CIFSEF), which is the training arm of the Workers Institute for Organised Labour (WIFOL). The training began on Thursday and wrapped up yesterday, Friday.
In an effort to motivate the workshop participants, Lee shared a personal story of his parents, both medical doctors, whom he said escaped from China to Hong Kong with nothing, but the clothes on their backs and their education. He said his father had been on his own since the age of nine, and he had been through war, famine and starvation.
“My parents always told me that the only thing they left China with was their education. So they always drove it into us that we must have an education,” the minister said, noting that sometimes the only thing that distinguishes one job applicant from another is education. “Education will be the only thing that distinguishes you from the rest of the people,” Lee said and applauded the workshop participants for their approach and drive to get “full employment for our people. It’s really about making sure that everyone is up to standard and about compliance. I believe that St. Maarten does not have an unemployment problem; it has a compliance and an educational issue and I am happy to see that you are helping on all fronts with that.”
The ILO training workshop was part of the decent work agenda. WIFOL President Theophilus Thompson said the ILO provided the technical and training assistance to restrict poverty and assist in the creation of jobs in St. Maarten.
Thompson said the training is expected to provide participants with the relevant tools and skills necessary to prepare CIFSEF lessons more efficiently and for the benefit of students who are job seekers or those who are upgrading their skills as well as those who are seeking certification in their profession. This is the second time ILO has partnered with WIFOL’s CIFSEF for the benefit of workers in the country. He said the vision of CIFSEF is to give the unemployed an opportunity to become employable, whether they are school dropouts or they have completed school and are not employed. CIFSEF’s records show that some 95 per cent of the persons who completed a CIFSEF course eventually found employment, the union president noted. The aim of CIFSEF is to enable persons to “move up and step up.”