Guyana continues to attack unemployment with fresh ILO initiative

Guyana Chronicle
September 23, 2001

GUYANA will reinvigorate its continuing attack on unemployment through fresh initiatives by the United Nations (UN) International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The fresh push comes with the transfer, from the ILO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, to the Caribbean, of Ms. Luesette Howell, Senior Specialist- Employers’ Activities, who is now based in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

She will be working with 21 countries and territories and her first visit here has seen the conduct of two seminars, in collaboration with the employers’ body, Consultative Association of Guyanese Industry Limited (CAGI), towards the major focus.

The theme for the second workshop, ended Thursday, was aimed at ‘Reducing Youth Unemployment: Strategies for Private Enterprise in Guyana’ and ‘Integration on the lessons of on-the-job training into Normal Workplace Operations Routine’.

Among its objectives was to analyse practical causes of child labour within this country and plan for the mitigation and prevention of it.

The others were to:

+ enhance the capacity of CAGI to lobby Government and guide its membership in establishing changes for a more competitive business environment, particularly conducive to SME (small and medium enterprise) competitiveness;

+ develop a culture of formal on-the-job training for the enhancement of skills and the calculation of the costs and benefits of such in-house programmes;

+ equip CAGI and its membership with specific formal tools to represent employers’ interest in advancing the need for sustained high quality and timely training programmes;

+ identify practical tools for benchmarking of quality for enterprise products and services;

+ identify best practices for enterprise operations and mechanisms for continual dissemination throughout the workforce and

+ develop team work at the workplace.

And, Director, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB/CAGI) Management Training Project, Dr. Lloyd Roopchand agrees the outcome could lead to unique ways of dealing with unemployment.

The also fully ILO-sponsored September 18 to 20 sessions targetted CAGI membership as well as the wider Private Sector stakeholders and the 18 participants were drawn from Toolsie Persaud Limited, National Hardware, Guyana National Shipping Corporation. Air Services Limited, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, National Insurance Scheme and the University of Guyana.

The target group comprised people in decision-making positions and, with eight facilitators, they are expected to identify their disappointments, the push and pull factors behind migration and recommend how to achieve the enabling environment for turning globalisation into opportunities.

“We need to train managers in leadership skills and gender equality, so as to have a large pool of resources from which to choose for productivity improvement and competitiveness,” said Howell, who is part of the Caribbean Multidisciplinary Advisory Team (CAMAT) in Port of Spain.

She ended her initial stay here Thursday, after pleasantly surprising meetings with a few Guyanese friends she made at previous postings.

The middle-age American had worked in Chad and Gabon, before being evacuated with other UN personnel from troubled Liberia in 1990 after 17 years in Africa.

She said the Private Sector here must begin to benefit from education in schools and she cautioned employers that denying women certain roles would be diminishing available resources for development.

Howell maintained, though that: “We have to start from the young and prepare for the market we want to go after.”

In an interview during a break at the human resource development workshop in CAGI Training Room, Waterloo Street, Georgetown, she said she has already grasped what, in her opinion, are the needs of the ILO tripartite constituency here and the two workshops held since she arrived on September 12 are forerunners of others to be staged.

The first, also with CAGI collaboration, was on occupational safety and health, and representatives of workers and employers talked about safety in the important mining and agriculture sectors where hazards exist.

Howell said she detected some laxity in implementation of certain regulations and said the matter has to be taken more seriously, including greater surveillance and review of legislation to create a different mindset.

“CAGI is interested in this, so that ILO could understand employers’ needs, too,” she explained.

Howell determined that Guyana has good laws which “have not been enacted as fully as they could be”.

Another of her findings is that “there is not enough data collection on accidents and diseases in order to address those issues”.

She posited that if you undervalue something, it is not recorded and, if there are no records, no case could be made out for ILO to approach a donor seeking funding, although there is need to organise a group of experts to pull together all the considerations that go into human resource development and create linkages.

“Human resources are the central assets of any business or enterprise and the focus must be on people, because without them, industry would not be sustained. Industry is the primary creator of jobs, but the employees must have the right skills, knowledge and information to contribute to the process and its sustainability,” Howell stated.

Noting that the Private Sector is the main supporter of any economy, she said emphasis must be on its sustainability and that has to be accomplished by people. So employers are looking for capable, productive individuals.

“We must begin with the young,” Howell reiterated, saying the schools must “angle” students to produce a trained workforce.

On-the-job training is crucial and all training should be looked at as investment in future.

Howell said globalisation has been around for a long time but its accelerated pace is causing people to now take note as it has resulted in many failed businesses which, ironically, are creating new SMEs and jobs.

According to her, 84 per cent of the world is involved in SMEs and it is important to have the relevant management know-how for competitiveness.

She said reverse mentoring (young teaching the old) and re-training are necessary as globalisation dictates working differently than before, doing different tasks and diversifying skills.

The Caribbean trend is in that direction and CAGI, like other such organisations, is asking for assistance in developing human resource as well as in industrial relations, enterprise development and strategic planning and management, Howell disclosed.

On the industrial relations scene, she said: “We have to do away with the win-lose and inculcate a more consensual approach to be in a win-win situation.

“We have to listen to each other and build consensus and strategically plan what we want to do. Many people do not have that long range view, but we have to imagine it to create it,” she argued.

Howell said CAGI would be following-up on the workshops so employers can get together and assess what should be the strategy for approaching the Government and the labour force and be pro-active in creating a National Productivity Council.

Other resource persons for the Tuesday to Thursday course were Dr. Frederick Sukdeo, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Programme Coordinator; Mr. Andrew Kartick, Materials Production Officer, Ministry of Education; Mr. Mohandatt Goolsarran, Head, Curriculum Development and Implementation Union, Ministry of Education; Ms. Basmatie Persaud, Secondary Schools Reform Project; Mr. Dev Sharma, Chief Executive Officer, Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Mr. Jairam Petam, Industrial Relations Director, Guyana Sugar Corporation and Mr. Joseph Headley, Deputy Chief Training Officer, Public Service Ministry.