BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, February 11, 2018 (Press Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister)– Prime Minister and Minister of People Empowerment, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, has said his Team Unity Government has successfully transitioned the “ill-conceived” People’s Employment Programme (PEP) into the Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP) – a programme that now represents genuine opportunities for its participants.
This week, STEP officials are observing the second anniversary of the revamped programme with a week of activities. The celebratory week commenced with a church service at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Bourryeau on Sunday, February 10.
There, Prime Minister Harris noted that the PEP programme, when introduced in 2012, was a hurried and ill-conceived political response by the former administration.
“When you go through the minutes for the PEP programme, they told you it was for six weeks, then for three months…it was always intended to be a short term programme, but elections were hard to come between 2012 and 2015, and so the programme went on with little thought going into how we can restructure the programme to make people better,” Dr. Harris said.
The honourable prime minister then made mention of a report by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), which found that of over 4,000 persons who had been registered on the PEP programme in 2014, only about 140 of those persons had been exposed to any form of training.
“We know that was bad. That was leaving them just as they came [to the programme] and that is why we determined that we will have to have the sessions on soft skills that we are having now to help enhance the human capacity of our people,” Prime Minister Harris said, while noting that the CDB played a critical role in helping the Government transition PEP into STEP through the provision of a loan valued at $300,000 as part of a wider project.
Under the arrangement with the CDB, the Team Unity Administration has set out a four-year plan (2018-2021) for the further restructuring and enhancement of STEP with specified guidelines that were not in place under PEP.
These include writing job descriptions for the STEP staff; writing the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for all that is being done in STEP; developing an orientation manual for the STEP trainees and getting handbooks for the employers.
Today, Prime Minister Harris said that STEP now embodies a true endeavour that promotes industry, creativity, ingenuity, enterprise and entrepreneurship.
He added, “The revamped Skills Training Empowerment Programme has given all of you a firmer grasp of the fundamental requirements of working proficiently in your desired fields. There have been exposure to the technical and vocational skills, but important for me has been the focus on the soft skills training sessions which are focused on areas such as conflict management.”
Prime Minister Harris stressed to the STEP participants that “this is a programme that is intended to help you and you must make the best of it.”