Antigua & Barbuda govt seeks to improve employability with free training program
By Rayne Morgan
SAINT JOHN’S, Antigua — In an effort to boost employability amid slow recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Antigua and Barbuda has launched an initiative in collaboration with the University of West Indies (UWI) Open Campus to provide free business training to 100 residents.
Antigua and Barbuda Labour Commissioner Eltonia Rojas emphasized that the Employability and Entrepreneurship Free Online Training program’s aim is to ensure citizens are either employed or employable.
Appearing as a guest on local radio program ZDK Live, Rojas noted that many individuals employed in the hospitality and aviation sectors particularly lost jobs during the pandemic, while others want to turn new hobbies into businesses but lack the know-how to do so.
“Sometimes you need a little bit of a jumpstart to get back out to work and now with the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been home for so long… It’s a way of not only giving those who are at home for long a kick-start, but also it helps those who [may have] found another niche,” Rojas said.
“You have persons who are getting into business but they are not necessarily trained, and so they may not know the ins and outs — you know, those little intricacies that those persons who might have studied business management would have, or have grown up in a family business and so it’s already in their DNA.”
Rojas focused on the potential of new startup businesses, stating: “We don’t want these new businesses that have cropped up to be the fallback. We believe that these can blossom into huge enterprises which employ other people.”
She added: “Then you have some persons who are unemployed and, for whatever reasons, they may not be the best employees. So, the employability program is geared towards, one, instilling entrepreneurial skills into persons, and two, making persons better employees. So, it covers both.”
The program, which Rojas said will be accredited across the Caribbean region, is set to start in September 2021 and will be a self-led course lasting about 10 weeks.
Those eligible include single mothers; people with disabilities; “displaced” workers; younger, inexperienced residents; and those over the age of 55, who Rojas said normally “might not be the first choice of employment”.
While the initial cohort is limited to 100 participants, Rojas pledged to continue repeating the program until local interest is exhausted so more people will have an opportunity to benefit.
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