Friday, 31 August 2012 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St. John’s - A programme that was initially introduced in the 2012-budget presentation last December has come to fruition.
The Leadership through Excellence Award Programme (LEAP) is intended to give young intellectuals the opportunity to work in the public sector and through a new entry mechanism, 15 young, bright Antiguans and Barbudans will soon be undergoing a period of internship in the public service.
“We recognise that special attention must be paid to integrating our young people into the labour market,” said Finance and the Economy Minister Harold Lovell at the programme’s inauguration on Thursday.
The minister explained that the initiative comes as part of efforts to combat the “youth employment challenges” in Antigua & Barbuda and goes hand in hand with government’s intention to invest considerably in the area of youth development.
“We must engage our young people on a different level since underutilised young people who lack opportunities incur significant costs … We recognise that (the) national workforce can be fully utilised as youth are generally more dynamic,” Minister Lovell said.
He added that the energy skills and aspirations of young people today are valuable components that no nation can afford to squander.
“It is envisaged that the programme will be a mix of interventions based on individual motivation, the use of best practices and other methods which would result in a class of working young people that would embrace the opportunities presented before them for further self development,” Lovell said.
The first 15 participants, who will be chosen through an online application drive, are expected to officially start the three-month internship in select government ministries and departments in January.
They will earn a $1,500 monthly stipend for the duration of the programme, and be awarded a $5,000 incentive prize upon successful completion.
The top three who successfully complete the programme will be awarded jobs immediately within the public sector, while the others will be selected on a needs basis.
Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Finance and Public Administration Mr. Sean Cenac said his office does not envision a time period of more than three months between the programme’s conclusion and the actual employment of the candidates.
There will be two LEAP sessions per year, beginning in January and August, respectively.” The successful conclusion and implementation of the programme will hinge on the good access to integrated mentoring services that will enhance the capacity of participants to build themselves and a life within public service,” the minister said.
The initiative targets young people between the ages of 18-25 who probably would have graduated university but still do not have a job or would have graduated from the Antigua State College and are looking for work.
Individuals with notable academic capability but who have not managed to complete any level of tertiary education can still apply.
Applications will be available through the government website.
A special committee will be selected to assess the applicants. The committee members, who will include mainly senior civil servants, will look to examine the skill sets of the applicants. They will also be involved in the 3-month training programme that is said to separate this programme from similar initiatives in the region.
Mrs. Gail Gordon, co-project officer on the LEAP Programme, explained that when selected the participants will have to go through the regular Monday to Friday routine with a twist on Fridays that will see a session with senior civil servants on rules, regulations and protocol within the public sector.
The participants will also be placed in groups of three where they will be required to complete a project designed to explore the enforcement of current initiatives being offered by the government.
They will be asked in this area to troubleshoot these programmes using their young analytical skills, with the main aim of attempting to highlight any weaknesses in these services. They will also be asked to investigate ways of enhancing the efficiency of the public service and produce recommendations wherever necessary.
“We are relying on the fact that young people are energetic and idealistic,” Gordon said.
She added that the groups will be evaluated in four areas at the end of the programme. These include an oral interview, an assessment of their performance during the group sessions, individual reports as submitted by the mentors, and the way in which they handled themselves in vetting current government projects.
Minister Lovell said the move is not one that is aimed at taking away the powers of the Public Service Commission (PSC) but rather to serve as an enhancement of that arm.
He also said that in keeping with government’s drive to have no “non essential hiring” within the public sector, those who will be taken must “add value” to the public service.