In March 2002 the On-the-Job (OJT) programme was implemented to fill a gap that existed between certification and workplace readiness. Today, the programme has seen over 150,000 trainees using it as a stepping stone to their desired career path.
As part of its commemoration of its 20th anniversary the OJT division of the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development will launch its Tracer Study to collect data from its former trainees and training providers with the aim of reviewing the impact of the OJT programme on their lives, livelihoods, and transformation of their careers.
“The evaluation of the impact of the programme over 20 years, but specifically eight years under the Ministry of Labour is quite important, and therefore a major conversation is being held with a key stakeholder to assist the division to first engage in a pilot project during the new few months. The information from that project will be used to design and implement a major tracer study,” Minister Stephen Mc Clashie told Business Day.
The OJT programme was designed to provide new graduates with the opportunity of experiencing the world of work and getting practical occupational skills and workplace experience within the public and private sectors as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Initially, the programme fell under the Ministry of Education, but was later reassigned to the Ministry of Labour. It is open to nationals ages 16-35 with at least three O’Levels or a craft certificate, and runs for a 24-month cycle.
“The objectives of the programme are to provide trainees with practical work-ready skills and work-based training opportunities to help them gain a foothold in the employment market; match the academic and technical skills of prospective trainees with the needs of the labour market; encourage trainees to adopt work ethics and attitudes which will increase their ability to gain sustainable employment; and develop the nation’s human resource capacity.”
Trainees are given a stipend determined by the level at which they are facilitated – CXC or craft certificate, A’Levels or technical diploma, associate degree, undergraduate, post graduate.
Mc Clashie said all training providers must be registered with the OJT division. Trainees under public providers are paid 100 per cent of their stipend directly from the programme. With private providers, he said, “The arrangement is that 60 per cent of the stipend will be reimbursed by the government. Therefore, trainees assigned to private sector providers will be paid 100 per cent of their stipend by the provider and the provider then provides the relative documents for the reimbursement to be paid monthly or quarterly based upon their rate of submission.”
The minister said although, in the past, there have been complaints by trainees of long waiting periods for their stipends, that problem no longer exists.
“But we must admit during the last two years trainees were paid late on about four occasions due to office closure as a result of the implementation of covid19 regulations at the division, which affected the processing process, as staff cannot process stipend from home.”
As at January 2022, there are 3,562 trainees enrolled in the programme – 3,505 in the public sector, 65 in the private sector and 92 in NGOs. The minister said because NGOs usually depend on sponsorship to run their operations, under the OJT programme they are treated as public training providers.
“The government recognises the importance of the service provided by the NGO sector and therefore has agreed to pay 100 per cent of the stipend paid to trainees under the OJT programme.”
The minister said despite the pandemic, over the last two years the OJT division has received over 80 new applicants from training providers, joining some of its major providers such as Angostura Ltd, National Quarries Ltd, National Petroleum Ltd, TT Manufacturers Association, Nestle Trinidad and Carib Glass in bridging the gap between the worlds of school and work.
Mc Clashie said since the start of the pandemic, while the actual application process remains a manual one with applicants having to physically drop off completed forms at the division’s various regional offices, many adjustments have had to be made to the programme to ensure its continuity.
“With covid19 restrictions limiting mass movement and gatherings, the OJT programme adapted to the new dynamic of the pandemic and quickly adjusted its five-day orientation for new trainees to a one-day virtual sensitisation session. This training was usually held at the Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and comprised an average of 400 new trainees being onboarded on a monthly basis.”
He said although it was on a smaller scale, the virtual orientation made the continuation of trainee placement possible. The OJT division also transitioned to conducting placement interviews virtually.
But even with these adjustments, there have been challenges, including a reduction in opportunities for trainees due to the pandemic restrictions, and a reduction in operational production due to the implementation of rotation and work-from-home arrangement. However, he said, the ministry did what was necessary to ensure the programme did not succumb to the pandemic.
Since 2020 the OJT division team has had to come up with new initiatives to keep the trainees engaged. Among these is a Virtual Exit Seminar, which began in July 2021 for trainees with less than three months remaining on the programme. The seminar is facilitated by employment agencies, business start-up finance institutions and experienced entrepreneurs.
“The objective of this bi-monthly seminar is to aid the transition process from being an on-the-job trainee to a sustainable employee or business owner.”
The minister said while things will never return to what we know as “normal,” the programme will continue to evolve based on the needs of the labour market and the opportunities provided by the training providers.
“The staff of the division continues to engage employers to collaborate with the programme to provide much needed opportunity for young people in TT.”
For more information on the OJT programme visit the OJT’s website at www.labour.gov.tt or call 671-3457 | 671-4447 | 671-7822 | 800-4OJT (4658)