OJT director praises programme

OJT Division director Joann David says  the division is working on its regional framework to improve community evaluation and data collection relative to impact and diversity and inclusiveness to create equal access for vulnerable groups. -
OJT Division director Joann David says the division is working on its regional framework to improve community evaluation and data collection relative to impact and diversity and inclusiveness to create equal access for vulnerable groups. -

JOANN DAVID had no preconceived notions about the Ministry of Labour’s On-The-Job (OJT) Division when she joined the programme as its director in 2019.

But she was not oblivious to the views of many in the public domain either.

“Upon entry in 2019, I felt the public perception in a high degree was that this was just another programme of the government that was not achieving its mandate, that it was a programme that had political influence and you had to know someone to get selected,” she told WMN.

But David said she quickly realised this was not the case.

“The systems were in place for opportunities for all who qualified.”

She also noticed that the objectives of the OJT were in sync with her own beliefs.

“I was always an advocate and supported the notion that the knowledge and experience that young graduates can achieve from their engagement with the programme will have a positive impact on their personal and career development.”

David said her own daughter is a case in point.

David's daughter graduated with an associate degree in tourism management from the Trinidad and Tobago Hotel and Tourism Institute in 2018 and subsequently entered the OJT programme to gain work experience.

She later went on to pursue a Bachelors’ degree in international tourism management at the UWI, St Augustine, in 2019 and is now employed with the Tourism Trinidad Limited.

“She was a shy individual and her interpersonal skill and communication skills was much improved subsequent to her OJT experience, which impacted both her UWI experience and her ability to gain sustainable employment subsequently.”

But there’ve been many other success stories under David’s watch over the past four years – and even before – not just in the areas of interpersonal development and skills training but holistically, across the programme’s various initiatives.

It’s the main reason why she decided to put the OJT up for consideration for the President’s Award for Innovation and Service Excellence (PrAISE), which recognises the outstanding contributions of institutions and initiatives within the public sector.

OJT Division director Joann David says she has the support of her management team and other staff members to ensure the programme continues to perform at optimum levels. -

The award was launched in 2018 by the Inter-American Development Bank under the patronage of former president Paula-Mae Weekes. It seeks to bring visibility to public sector agencies and organisations that demonstrate innovation and service excellence.

The OJT has been short-listed in two categories – service excellence in the public service and people’s choice. It is the first time that the programme has been nominated for the prestigious award.

“I felt that based on the hard work of the division over the last four years, the support that the trainees provided during the covid19 period to the public service agencies and the general purpose and impact of the programme on national development, we deserved some PrAISE.”

The award ceremony takes place on December 12 at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain, from 5pm.

The OJT programme started in 2002 as a six-month internship initiative of the government to provide pre-employment opportunities for new graduates in the 16-25 age group. It was intended to bridge the gap between school and workplace readiness.

David said the programme was evaluated twice and the duration of the training was increased from six to 12 months.

She said after the government introduced GATE (Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses), the programme’s age group was increased to 35 years with the inclusion of a Masters’ degree at Level 5 and the duration was expanded to 24 months. This initiative facilitated school to work practical training.

The programme is offered each month to 400 candidates for a period of 24 month. They are offered practical work experience within private and public sector organisations as well as non-governmental organisations within all industries and sectors throughout the country.

David said the ultimate aim of the OJT is to create a cadre of trained individuals with the relevant job exposure to access employment in various businesses, industries and sectors.

An administrator with some 30 years of experience, David has an MBA with a focus on transformational leadership and a post graduate diploma in public sector innovation and leadership from UWI’s Cave Hill campus in Barbados. She is also certified in social work and corporate events management.

She is passionate about helping people to realise their fullest potential through self-realisation and “faith in self and action.”

David joined the OJT after spending three years with the Water and Sewerage Authority’s Adopt A River programme as its administrative and financial officer.

But she did not have much of a grace period.

Apart from dealing with the daily operations, David said the covid19 pandemic in 2020 caused the OJT to some introspection and review its systems “from application to exit.”

Two years later, the programme began taking a data-driven approach to its mandate by repositioning the trainee at the centre of its operations. The OJT also re-engineered its process flows to foster increased productivity.

Director of Ministry of Labour’s On-The-Job (OJT) Division Joann David. -

Coming out of the review, she said, they introduced new services for trainees.

These included the development of a new engagement framework by way of a comprehensive memorandum of agreement outlining the quality of the training expectation and the overall deliverables and outcome of the training; the hiring of a professional psychologist to provide mental health support: and the design and implementation of new monitoring and evaluation tools among other initiatives.

The division also embarked on a major project to change the manner in which its trainees were paid to ensure greater efficiency.

Throughout the review, David said she had the support of her management team and other staff members to ensure the OJT continued to perform at optimum levels.

David describes her leadership style as transformational and charismatic. But she is also flexible and can shift gears at a moment’s notice.

“I am able to adjust it based on the situation when needed. I engage my staff and allow participation before making major decision. Decisions at the division is data driven. Stakeholder engagement is critical to any change management and leadership success.”

She is responsible for ensuring that the direction of the OJT programme is aligned with the national youth and workforce development agenda.

This involves frequent brainstorming among its leadership team to design and maintain effective and efficient operations of the OJT division and programme and ensuring the development and execution of business development strategies to increase placement opportunities in a wide cross-section of industries and sectors.

David’s portfolio also includes the establishment of effective systems to monitor and evaluate the division and programme’s overall performance.

“The requirements and expectations are heavy and requires great personal sacrifice but the value is derived for doing the job and impacting not only the lives of the trainees but sometime a family.”

A typical day for David includes strategic networking with stakeholders in the areas of administration, problem-solving and intervention, policy development, programme structure realignment, staff management, budget oversight and quality assurance.

Then there are meetings with the Ministry of Labour’s senior management to promote the environment that is needed to facilitate greater efficiency and productivity at the Division.

At present, she said, the division is carrying out a job evaluation and analysis of all existing positions to ensure there is no duplication. It is also increasing staff training to improve service delivery. The division is also working on its regional framework to improve community evaluation and data collection relative to impact and diversity and inclusiveness to create equal access for vulnerable groups.

Since coming on board, David has represented the Ministry of Labour on several Cabinet-appointed committees, including the national steering committee of Generation Unlimited Project; management committee to oversee the operations of the Youth Development Apprenticeship Centres in TT (Ministry of Youth); and the municipal committee on sustainable community development, Office of the Prime Minister.

She said over the past 21 years, the programme has facilitated over 200,000 graduates from both academic and non-academic institutions with practical work experience and development of skills/areas such as communications, time management, adaptability and flexibility, interpersonal development and digital literacy.

Apart from providing its trainees with practical, hands-on experience in work environments, David said OJT programmes can help to reduce the skills gap.

“This ensures that the workforce possesses the skills and competencies demanded by employers, making individuals more employable. This improves their overall employability and increases their chances of securing long-term employment.”

She believes a skilled and adaptable workforce is a key driver of economic growth.

“OJT programmes contribute to the overall economic development of a country by preparing individuals for the demands of the job market. Countries with a highly skilled workforce are more competitive globally. OJT programmes can enhance the competitiveness of a nation by ensuring that its workforce is equipped with the latest skills and knowledge.”

David added OJT programmes can also be tailored to address specific industry needs to ensure that the labour market is supplied with individuals who have the right skills to contribute to the growth and development of key sectors.

Employees who have undergone OJT programmes, she believes, may feel more engaged and satisfied in their roles.

“This can lead to improved retention rates, reducing turnover costs for employers.”

David said OJT programmes are also designed to promote diversity and inclusion by providing opportunities for individuals from various backgrounds. This contributes to a more inclusive and equitable labour market.

The programme, she said, often collaborates with educational institutions and industry partners to facilitate stronger connections between academia and the job market by ensuring that educational programmes are relevant and responsive to industry needs.

David believes citizens continue to underestimate the significance of the OJT.

“I think that they see the programme as another make work initiative of the government. It must be noted that a well-designed national on-the-job training programme can have far-reaching positive impact on the labour market, contributing to individual career development, industry growth and overall economic prosperity.”

She said the division has just completed its 2023-2026 strategic plan and implementation schedule. It includes a new vision, mission and core values “with the trainee at the centre of our focus.”

David said the plan is designed to facilitate “improved service delivery and well-defined outcomes.”


"OJT director praises programme"

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