Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Patria-Kaye Aarons | Let’s talk job creation

Published:Tuesday | June 21, 2016 | 6:00 AM

Job creation has been identified as a thing so important in Jamaica that the prime minister has seen it fit to hug it up under his bosom. As he should. The difficulty is that in the super Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, the focus has seemingly been on the economic growth part. I'm still unclear exactly from where the jobs will come.

In order to have everyone in Jamaica of working age employed, we need around 1.7 million jobs. It is possible. Perhaps my overly simplistic mind is dumbing down complex economic issues.

During the recent election campaign, I did an informal survey. I asked some diehard party faithful on both sides why their sitting MP should be returned to power. There was one community that stood out in my mind. Shops and bars lined the street and every one was emblazoned with party signage. Every stop I made, the response was: "A mi MP gimmie di money fi start dis shop/dis bar."

All I could think was, what a waste of money and an absence of imagination. You take constituency funds and set up a man with a bar or a little shop. You are doing him and his neighbours a disservice because 20 other bars and shops are on the same little road, selling the same goods, and all you've done is create competition.

Want to create some meaningful jobs? Here's a suggestion. Get your hands on the Customs import list. It itemises what we take in by commodity. Look at the dollar value and volume of the imports. Pick the low-hanging fruit and start a business, making right here in Jamaica those things that can be produced here.

That's exactly why I started my small business. Last year, I was the only full-time employee. This year, there are two of us and six part-time workers, and next year there will be 12 on staff if all goes as planned.

'Entrepreneurship' is the new buzzword and the direction in which people have been encouraged to pursue. However, when you, with all good intentions, say to someone: "If you can't find a job, create one," you mean well. But we haven't truly prepared our population to be entrepreneurial.

Here's an idea. Jamaica has some really bright entrepreneurs who move fast and whose patriotism is limitless. Serial entrepreneurs.

Let's put them to work for two years. Have them start businesses in poor and rural areas, employing people from the community.

 

Apprenticeship programme

 

An apprenticeship programme has been proposed by the Holness administration. I say, take it one step further. Give the community the business idea. Do the needs assessment, identify the gap, and go to the community and say, "Jamaica is importing too many hangers. We need to make hangers in Jamaica. Here's how you start a hanger company and make it profitable." Have those people shadow the entrepreneurs for six months and learn every aspect of the business.

How awesome would it be if we had a small team of entrepreneurs who simply started businesses, grew them for six months to a year, and then released them to the community with supervision by, perhaps, the Jamaica Business Development Corporation.

Understand that not every entrepreneur wants to have a business idea and hug it up.

There are some and I will dare to say that there are many who simply want to give birth to the idea and see it succeed.

At last count in 2014, STATIN indicated that 47.4 per cent of persons between 20 and 34 years old were unemployed. These are the young, agile people who are broke, starting families, and susceptible to an introduction to crime. Efforts at economic growth in Jamaica will be severely stalled if the jobs don't come at the same time. Michael Lee-Chin needs a job-creation counterpart, and both hands have to clap.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.