Basseterre, St. Kitts, November 22, 2018 (S.T.E.P.) — Team Unity government, in its endeavour to ensure that the country has a well trained workforce, in February 2017 it introduced the Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP) as a new model to replace the People Employment Programme (PEP).
The rationale as was explained by the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for STEP, Mr Osbert DeSuza, was to place greater emphasis on training, thereby providing formal and informal targeted, time bound training and job placement to persons in line with the market needs.
“It was envisioned that STEP participants will have access to training coordinated by the National Skills Training Programme,” observed Mr DeSuza. “The Skills Training Empowerment Programme has grown in leaps and bounds since its inception and it has had a very positive impact on the work force in both St. Kitts and Nevis, especially youth employment.”
The beneficiaries of the STEP span numerous fields and professions as they are attached to a wide cross section of public and private sector businesses. In all these areas, the STEP coordinates hands-on training in actual work places and sites affording participants opportunities to be exposed to skills training.
The acquirement of technical knowledge and appropriate skills in diverse professions enhances the employability of the STEP beneficiaries and increases the pool of trained persons in the workforce. Consequently, many STEP trainees have been hired by some employers to permanent positions based on their newly acquired skills set.
“The Skills Training Empowerment Programme is not only focussed on coordinating opportunities for training and employment but is now in the process of actively transitioning its beneficiaries to acquire formal certification in relevant vocational trades,” noted Permanent Secretary DeSuza. “The STEP is working in collaboration with AVEC and the TVET secretariat in advancing this goal to have as many beneficiaries as possible move towards achieving certification, either at the national level or at the regional level via the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ).”
According to Mr DeSuza, as the economy of St. Kitts and Nevis continues to grow and expand, there will be a greater demand for skilled and certified workers and achieving certification at any of the five levels of competence of the CVQ will be a huge asset to STEP trainees.
In this respect, the STEP wants to not only coordinate opportunities for participants to be adequately trained, or employed, but to promote and facilitate opportunities for beneficiaries of the STEP to achieve certification as well. Persons with CVQ certificates can use them to negotiate a better pay and to get jobs throughout the Caribbean and beyond. He added that it is imperative therefore as the STEP increases its focus to encourage and facilitate its trainees to achieve certification that it has an efficient and effective operating system.
In the meantime, Mr DeSuza has said that operational guidelines are currently being documented to standardise the operation of STEP. The guidelines/standard operating procedures (SOP) will cover areas such as: Terms and conditions of the Skills Training Empowerment Programme; the registration process for trainees; and career guidance guidelines for trainees.
Other areas include: Orientation process for trainees; guidelines for employers who provide job site training; guideline for the collaborative and cooperative relationship between the STEP and training institutions and centres; and quality audits of the STEP operations and training programmes.
“The standardisation of the STEP operations is being done following the guidelines provided by the ISO 9001 Quality Management System (QMS) standard,” said Mr DeSuza. “This highly recognised international standard is one that the top global product and service companies have acquired as ISO 9001QMS certification speaks to a high quality of service or product and a quality management system that is exemplified by consistency, reliability, efficiency and effectiveness.”
The Permanent Secretary further noted that STEP has hired the services of Mr Emile Greene who is trained and experienced in the ISO 9001QMS standard as a certified lead auditor. Mr Greene has over ten years in quality management systems as well as more than fifteen years as a science teacher at the secondary and tertiary levels. The standardisation of the STEP operations has already begun and is progressing smoothly.