Basseterre, St. Kitts, November 3, 2018 (S.T.E.P.) — Since the launch of the Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP) in 2016 by the Team Unity government, hundreds of nationals, especially young persons, have benefited from their participation in the programme.
“The goal of the STEP is to empower unemployed nationals of St. Kitts and Nevis with skills through various formal and non-formal training programmes,” said Mr Wendell Wattley, Director of STEP. “The STEP has coordinated and supported the training of persons under the National Skills Training Programme (NSTP), at the Advanced Vocational Education Centre (AVEC) and at CFBC. The vast majority however, has been accommodated in real life experience jobs, at work sites and businesses around St. Kitts and Nevis.”
According to Mr Wattley, these individuals have had ‘on the job’ training and have become competent and efficient in their specific trades. The STEP has had a positive and progressive effect on the economy of the Federation in several ways, which include the production of a pool of trained workers in many different fields and disciplines.
STEP has produced an available skilled workforce in some disciplines, has helped to reduce unemployment in St. Kitts and Nevis to a record low level, while businesses which participate in the programme has benefited as STEP provides a wage to the trainees while they are learning on the job.
Mr Wattley further stated: “Some STEP trainees after having acquired relevant skills and knowledge on the job have been hired into permanent positions by some business entities, and some STEP trainees have successfully acquired training and are now self-employed.”
Despite the success of the programme thus far, especially in building capacity of the workforce, STEP Director Wattley is reporting that the management of STEP is actively engaging with AVEC and the TVET secretariat to offer programmes to assist STEP trainees to meet certification standards. The TVET secretariat is presently working to amalgamate all the technical and vocational institutions in St. Kitts and Nevis under one functional management unit.
“The amalgamated unit will be the body with responsible for the certification process whether at a national level or at the CVQ level, and will administer, monitor, evaluate programmes in various vocational fields,” noted Mr Wattley. “This body will also be responsible for the assessment of STEP trainees, and other candidates, to determine if they meet the minimum standards established for achieving certification.”
The attainment of a certificate in any skill set and field will be an important milestone for the STEP trainees, observed the STEP official. According to the Director, while it is value added to trainees to acquire new skills and knowledge from the training, and fortunate to be employed at the same time, the Team Unity government wants persons to achieve more and be appropriately certified for their level of competence.
He explained that a certificate can be a passport to new jobs, better positions, better pay, and if it is at CVQ level, it is acceptable throughout the Caribbean region. It can be used to advance to further training and to maximise the value of the opportunity provided by the government of St. Kitts and Nevis through its Skills Training Empowerment Programme.
“Throughout St. Kitts and Nevis, the STEP trainees and participants are working in many fields and professions,” advised the STEP Director. “They are learning new skills in various areas of education in secondary, primary, pre-schools and nurseries. They are assigned to learn the trades in construction and building technology working with electricians, plumbers, carpenters, masons, painters and tile layers.”
STEP trainees in the area of agriculture work and learn on farms, ploughing, planting, weeding, cultivating, harvesting crops and learning how to use all kinds of farm equipment, machinery and pesticides. Some trainees are involved in post-harvest treatment of crops, learning about storage and preservation techniques, marketing, sale and delivery of produce in pristine condition.
“There are STEP trainees attached to businesses in hospitality, automotive repairs/mechanics, air condition, landscaping, small motor repairs, customer service in stores, restaurants, offices, and even at marinas and boat yards,” concluded Mr Wattley. “The presence of STEP throughout St. Kitts and Nevis is like the wind, everywhere, in all communities, assisting, training, working and empowering the unemployed for a better nation.”