Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Too unruly for work! - More agencies warn that rowdy students hurting US summer work programme

Published:Sunday | August 7, 2016 | 8:00 AMRyon Jones

Days after The Sunday Gleaner first reported that scores of Jamaican students could miss out on the lucrative United States summer student work and travel programme because of the bad behaviour of their peers, there are indications that the fallout could be worst than imagined.

The Kingston-based Career Services International (CSI) had indicated that it intends to reduce the number of Jamaicans it signs up next year and instead use more Chinese students to fill the vacancies. Now other entities are warning that they, too, could cut the number of Jamaicans they send off each year.

The J1 summer work and travel programme was created by the US Government more than five decades ago to give foreign university and college students the opportunity to experience living and working in America.

FOCUS LOST

But the purpose of the programme, which is cultural exchange, has been lost on some students whose sole focus has been on making as much money as possible.

This mindset has resulted in some students abandoning their primary employers who would have helped to take them to the US while going in search of better paying jobs.

There was also the well-publicised incident last year where five Jamaica students, who were employed at Walmart in Florida, were arrested and charged with retail theft and conspiracy to commit fraud.

Some Jamaican students have also been accused of turning up late for work and being ill-mannered which has contributed to some US companies stating that they do not want any Jamaicans.

The agencies which operate the programmes have now warned that they might have to look elsewhere for students to send to the States each summer.

"I'm sure all the agencies are concerned, especially since fewer Jamaicans are getting jobs in terms of the contracts they (overseas sponsors) send to us. When the sponsor sends a job listing, you will look at it and see some of the employers saying no Jamaicans or they might want two," said Denise Daley-Mohan, who operates Island Plus Multi-Service.

"You have students who go and misbehave and it doesn't matter which programme they went on, it impacts all of us and the country as well. So we are worried," added Daley-Mohan.

Head of Overseas Work and Travel Employment Agency, Euel Morgan, said from his experience, 100 per cent of the students who sign up for the programme do so with the intention of making money.

He argued that it is up to the agencies to educate them that it is a cultural exchange programme so they do not have unrealistic expectations.

"The programme might be in jeopardy because of the mindset of the students and it's just a situation where we have to educate them," said Morgan, whose company sent off more than 400 students this summer.

"Some students will say, 'well, listen, I don't really care I'm going there for this year and I will do what I have to do.' But you will have people who will want to access the programme next year or a few years down the road and it's in our best interest as a country to do the best to keep the programme going," added Morgan.

Daley-Mohan is also disappointed that some of the participants in the programme do not appreciate that their actions will have negative repercussions.

"It's not the majority who misbehaves, sometimes is just four, but because of the level of what is happening it impacts us greatly," said Daley-Mohan.

"The more things happen on the J1 programme and it's a Jamaican student and it comes out, we are in big trouble and we know that, but we don't know what else to do."

Students having to find in excess of US$1,200 (J$152,160) to secure the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status (DS2019 form) required to go on the programme, with some taking out loans to do so, while many have tuition fees to pay when the return to Jamaica.

EMPHASISONMONEY

This reality has caused head of International Work and Travel Services (IWTS), Wayne Harrison to understand why some students put so much emphasis on making money once they get to the US.

"A lot of students are from financially challenged background, so of course any venture one embarks on they want it to be feasible and people naturally try to earn as much money as they can given whatever circumstances," said Harrison who has also travelled on the programme, and has operated IWTS for the past five years.

Harrison said he sent an email to every student registered with IWTS earlier this year outlining that they need to return after their programme and should not run off and that they need to check in with the sponsor every month and update them on any jobs they are doing, as they should not be doing any additional work without permission.

"This programme is big and has been creating work and travel opportunity for thousands of students across the world yearly and we can only advise students of the importance of the pragramme's existence and advise them to help us to preserve it because it a good thing in place," said Harrison.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com