The newly launched ON-SITE internship programme will see 175 local youth being given hand on opportunities across a number of industries in the private sector.
And, executive director of the St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Chamber of Commerce, Anthony Regisford is urging employers not to see the programme as “free labour”.
Speaking to attendees at the launch of the programme on Thursday, January 19, Regisford underscored the importance of the initiative, noting that business owners have expressed concerns about young people not being “job ready”.
“Earlier in the in the creation of this programme, honourable Minister of Finance [Camillo Gonsalves] engaged the Chamber…and my duty was to feel out the business community to see if they will be willing participants. I have to say that I did a small sample size and I stopped, because everybody that I spoke to in the business community [are] all embracing of this initiative, so this is a good sign,” Regisford said at the launch.
“We have to put some structure to the way we bring young people into the workforce. From the perspective of businesses, I hear business owners complaining that the recruits very often are not job ready.”
Regisford said programmes such as this are a “proven and tested way” of preparing young people for the world of work.
However, he cautioned employers in the programme about ensuring that interns are properly trained and mentored during their apprenticeship.
“…When word of this programme got around at the Chamber, we had businesses calling us saying Is it (the programme) ready? Is it ready? And I knew what the intent of the call was. So we just need to pull breaks. I want to urge businesses to not look at this programme and those who participate as free labour. That is not the plan. In fact, that will undermine the effectiveness or the results that this programme is intended to achieve,” he pointed out.
“ I want to urge businesses to seriously take on the mentorship role, the coaching role that they are signing up for when they participate in this programme. Our business leaders must embrace this programme. You must deliver, it is very important…”.
To the potential participants in the programme, Regisford encouraged them to “go with your enthusiasm [and ]with your ambition”, adding it is a “golden opportunity” for employment.
The programme is being part-funded by the Republic of China, Taiwan, to the tune of US$500,000 and an injection by government of EC $40,000.