Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
ONLY TWO per cent of persons who signed up to the Jamaica Employ programme has landed interviews, and it is unclear how many have landed jobs.
With thousands of tertiary graduates now in the ranks of the unemployed, Labour Minister Derrick Kellier is urging them not to see Jamaica Employ as their only way of securing employment.
"As it stands presently, people need to look globally. We are no longer an insulated country. We are part of a global village in a global market place. We need to look everywhere on the globe. What is not available in Jamaica may be available somewhere else," Kellier told The Gleaner yesterday.
This week, key private-sector players predicted that approximately half of the 40,000 persons leaving high schools and universities this year may not land jobs.
"Most employers are either not hiring or not replacing people who are leaving," David Wan, president of the Jamaica Employers' Federation, said.
"I don't expect any massive increase in employment by the private sector this year," Wan added.
Jamaica's unemployment rate currently stands 16.3 per cent.
Yesterday, Kellier, when asked by The Gleaner to what extent graduates should rely on the Jamaica Employ programme, said: "You have to keep seeking the opportunities wherever they are.
"We don't know what is there from what is not there. The Bible says you are to search and ye shall find."
Kellier said 4,559 persons have registered with the Ministry of Labour under the Jamaica Employ programme. He said 400 persons have been referred to various companies within the private sector for consideration for employment and approximately 100 have landed interviews.
"Because of the contraction in the economy, and … where we are coming from as a Government, to reach the point where things are stabilising, I am very optimistic - and the Government is very optimistic - that things will pick up gradually. By this time next year, we would have reversed the trend that now exists," Kellier said.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller had said the Jamaica Employ initiative, which was launched last September, would advance national development.
"We could immediately reduce unemployment by 40,000 over the short term, and I am sure, as Jamaicans, we can," she said.
Under the programme, which is underpinned by a memorandum of understanding between the Govern-ment and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), where possible, businesses would seek to employ at least one additional qualified Jamaican within their organisation.
Under the agreement, the labour ministry receives résumés from Jamaicans and place them in a database. This is then accessed by the private sector, which matches skill sets with job openings.
"We believe - based on discussions with the heads of the JCC and with the stabilising of the economy - having successfully passed the first IMF (International Monetary Fund) test, confidence is being restored in the economy. We are advised that come next year, they should be moving more aggressively within the private sector in terms of job creation," Kellier said yesterday.
The minister said it is hoped that the private sector will be the driver of the programme, but noted that he appreciates that businesses will not hire unless there is a need for persons within the organisations.
He also said that his ministry was in the process of driving a productivity revolution within the private sector.
"If we are successful in doing that, we can literally double the amount of jobs that we wanted to create under this programme through the private initiative of those companies," Kellier said.
The minister, meanwhile, noted that jobs will be created through the logistics-hub initiative, in the free-zone and agro parks.
"Opportunities are going to be there for hundreds of people to be employed. There is no doubt about that," Kellier said.