Ministry to search islandwide for farm-work recruits
With a growing number of Jamaicans on the farm-work programme reportedly slinking off never to return, Labour Minister Derrick Kellier yesterday warned that no hanky-panky would be countenanced as his ministry goes in search of a fresh batch of workers.
"Overseas employment opportunities beckon to us in non-traditional farming areas of North America and Canada," Kellier, who is also minister of social security, agriculture and fisheries, said in Parliament yesterday.
He said starting August 10, his ministry would be venturing islandwide to pre-select persons who would be suitable to work under the Canadian Overseas Employment Programme.
Kellier disclosed that recruiting teams would be travelling to four strategic locations throughout the island to conduct interviews of candidates selected from several parishes at one location.
"Make no mistake about it. This is proposed to be a serious exercise," he said.
Responding to queries posed by Derrick Smith, leader of opposition business, Kellier said 14,000 persons participated in the programme in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, with CDN$17 million being remitted over the period.
Kellier stressed that persons interested in participating must have farming experience.
"It would be to such persons' advantage if they received formal training from one of our established agricultural training institutions," he said. "This would greatly increase their chances of obtaining the necessary visa from the Canadian High Commission to Ö participate in the programme."
He stressed that persons who do not have the requisite farming experience, formally or informally, are not suitable candidates.
"The best candidates will stand a chance of being successful," he said.
Despite a range of successes, Kellier said the programme was plagued by its share of challenges, including a strain on family relationships.
"The ministry has sought to mitigate the negative effects of these circumstances through the implementation of a functionally integrated family services programme that draws on the expertise of professional social workers to provide support."
Another challenge, Kellier said, has to do with the number of persons who go absent without leave.
"Truth be told, this continues to be a major problem for us within the ministry," said Kellier. "But, largely, because of this problem, we have been forced to take measures to rigorously improve exponentially our recruitment, orientation, and selection processes."
Added Kellier: "We have undertaken to do so without apology to anyone, group, or institution. The integrity of the programme must be safeguarded at all cost."