Basseterre, St. Kitts (SKNIS): The Government of National Unity launched its Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP) on Thursday (February 16), which offers persons an opportunity to learn a skill and obtain a job attachment as part of a programme that is grounded in a "people centered governance framework."
STEP, which was formerly known as the People's Employment Programme (PEP), was reorganized, restructured and repositioned, to ensure that the trainees receive genuine training, are imbued with the necessary work ethics, and give value for money.
Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Mr. Osbert DeSuza, was tasked with overseeing the PEP programme in 2015 and guiding its transformation into STEP. He was aided in the upgrade process by a committee comprising representatives from the National Skills Training Programme and the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Secretariat.
At the launching ceremony at the Circus in Basseterre, Mr. DeSuza stated "as we step up from the PEP to STEP, the government looks forward to providing continued support to you the trainees as it seeks to broaden the skills base and skills set of our nationals."
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Honourable Shawn Richards, noted some of the failings of the PEP programme, which was launched in December 2012. He cited the area of landscaping as an example and noted that after four years on the programme, the 400 plus interns were not trained in the finer parts of the requisite skill or the ability to manage a business.
"This government's decision to reorganize the PEP has been made in the best interest of the interns or workers," he said. "I want to say to the trainees ... to see the training which will be offered to you as a stepping stone to bigger and bolder things in life."
Remarks were given by the Prime Minister, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, who said the transition from PEP - which he described as a "bulky programme" with some 5,000 interns at its peak - to STEP was done "smoothly and without turmoil" and credited Mr. DeSuza for his leadership. He highlighted the symbolic goals of the redesigned STEP.
"We want to take our country to a higher place; we want to free the minds of our people to the finer values of industry, creativity, ingenuity, enterprise and entrepreneurship. We urge them to reach [for] the stars," said the prime minister.
Dr. Harris added that the overall impact should bring about an increase in national competitiveness and improvement in productivity. The areas of training are in electrical, plumbing, air conditioner maintenance, carpentry, food and beverage, landscaping, mechanic, bartending and housekeeping. The areas were chosen from a list of interest areas provided by the interns and with input from the Department of Labour about job market opportunities.