Remarks by Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris on the Occasion of Church Service to Mark the 2nd Anniversary of the Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP) Mount Carmel Baptist Church Sunday, February 10th, 2019
Your Excellency the Governor-General, Sir S. W. Tapley Seaton; Esteemed Cabinet Colleagues; Mr. Osbert DeSuza, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for the Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP); Chairperson of the STEP Second Anniversary Committee, Mr. Emile Greene who is also STEP’s Quality Assurance Coordinator/Consultant; Mr. Wendell Wattley, Director of the Skills Training Empowerment Programme; other STEP staff; STEP trainees and facilitators; members of the media…
Good Morning all, today’s church service is a joyous celebration that I could not miss for three (3) good reasons.
Firstly, there is no better place to be but in the house of God. The experience at Mount Carmel Baptist Church is that however and whenever we come to church, we will leave enriched, empowered, our spirit lifted by songs of praise and the power of the uncompromising word.
Secondly, it is always inspiring to interact with our country’s young men and women whose lives have been significantly impacted by the Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP) since its revamping two years ago this month. I met with about two (200) hundred STEP trainees at workshops at the Conaree Community Centre, St. Johnston Community Centre and the Cayon Community Centre, I had a wonderful time engaging with them.
Thirdly, the two-year-old Government agency falls under the Office of the Prime Minister, which I have ultimate responsibility for, so I made every effort to return from my trip to Uruguay on the Venezuela matter, in order to join all of you here.
Two years ago, my Team Unity Administration began to implement our Manifesto commitments to provide a new model of what we felt a successful job training and creation programme ought to be.
FROM PEP TO STEP
We therefore retired the inadequate and ineffective People Employment Programme (PEP) and put STEP to work, ushering in a new age of opportunities for social mobility and employment in this country, particularly for our young people who must live meaningful lives contributing to their wellbeing and welfare and for that of their community.
Importantly, today, many of our country’s young people are now contributing meaningfully to the development of their communities, applying what they have learned during their time in the Skills Training Empowerment Programme.
Some of you are new business owners while others have landed your first jobs, all thanks to STEP. While your career paths may be different from one another, an intersecting commonality is that you are all better off because of STEP’s laser focus on skills training and empowerment through certification – hence the rationale behind this year’s theme, “Showcasing Skills, Empowering People for Life,” to commemorate STEP’s Week of Activities.
STEP should enhance the human capital in our country. Participants should be made better for it. There is a passage of scripture in Psalm 18 verse 36 which says, “Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.” Indeed, this is exactly what STEP is and should be doing for its cadre of trainees. Enlarging your capacity for discipline, hard work, for teamwork, for ingenuity, for working together, learning to be, to do and become.
The revamped skills training programme has given all of you a firm grasp of the fundamental requirements of working proficiently in your desired fields. Substantial exposure to fundamentals, such as technical and vocational skills, along with exposure to soft skills training specially focused on conflict management, as well as money management, should therefore give you a firm foundation and footing to succeed in the world of work and in life. As the passage says, the steps under your feet have been enlarged – and so too have your opportunities and life chances been expanded under this reinvigorated training programme. Your work ethics should be better from your exposure to STEP. Your value system must guide you to appreciate honest work, punctuality, civility etc.
STEP then gives you solid work experience, improved employability and a step up on the social and career ladder. The wide-ranging STEP training in important matters such as money management also ensures that you do not succumb to the common pitfall that ensnares too many of our people that is, the snare of spending too much, saving too little, and getting into excessive debt because we fail to plan and budget and we get covetous of others because we do not stop to think how they got what they have.
PEP when introduced in 2012 was an ill-conceived political response to a governance crisis. Unlike the rushed People Employment Programme (PEP), which was hastily launched on December 21st, 2012, a mere few days after Members of the Federal Opposition filed a Motion of No Confidence in the Douglas-led administration, our STEP is a product of deliberate planning intended to right certain wrongs. A productivity and performance assessment of PEP by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) revealed that fewer than 140 of the more than 4,000 workers had received any form training.
STEPPING UP CERTIFICATION VIA CDB TECHVOC PROJECT
STEP now has access to $300,000 USD out of the total funds provided by the CDB to the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Enhancement Programme in St. Kitts and Nevis. This has been allocated to STEP to assist its further development in assessment and certification, including the professional training/upgrading of its staff/facilitators/instructors and the continuous monitoring and measuring of the progress of STEP trainees.
STEP has already started implementing items that have been identified in an Action Plan (2018 to 2021), such as:
• Writing job descriptions for STEP staff
• Writing Standard Operating Procedures for STEP operations
• Orientation manual for STEP trainees
• Handbook for Employers
WEEK OF ACTIVITIES
Indeed, STEP has a remarkably bright future and so do its trainees. I therefore proudly endorse the Week of Activities, which will run up to February 16th. I encourage citizens and residents to support the various activities aimed at celebrating and showcasing the successes of STEP. Of note is the Second Anniversary Edition of the STEP Fair, which will be held on Friday, February 15th from 10:00am to 5:00pm in Independence Square, Basseterre. STEP trainees and their skills, including their farm produce, will be on full display on this day, so I invite the public to go and see the significant role that STEP is playing in building vital technical and vocational skills in the workforce – how it is now helping farmers in Phillips, Molyneux, Cayon, St. Peters, St. Pauls, etc. deliver on food security.
My Government and I expect that you would, as usual, show your appreciation to the STEP community clean-up groups when they participate in a beautification competition that will be launched this Monday, February 11th. Tuesday, February 12th is the Day of Training for field officers and supervisors, Wednesday, February 13th is a special Working for You Programme on ZIZ Radio and I invite you to tune in to it. Thursday is Staff Development Day. Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive, but is meant to whet your interest in the Week of Activities. For a full list of Activities, therefore, you should stay tuned to local media, including the St. Kitts and Nevis Information Service at www.sknis.kn, ZIZ TV and Radio, as well as social media. Invite your family and friends to participate in the programme and share a proud moment with you.
The Week of Activities, through its brochures and media events including interviews and a special video feature to be aired on TV, will also raise public awareness of STEP, the much-improved version of PEP. For instance, the Week of Activities will highlight the fact that STEP trainees have the opportunity to gain a technical and vocational certificate under the umbrella of the TVET Council; certification at the CVQ level is acceptable throughout the Caribbean region, meaning that the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) represents the achievement of a set of competencies recognized by CARICOM.
Moreover, the Week will also focus on the STEP’s staff’s close and consistent collaboration with employers who facilitate on-the-job training opportunities for the trainees. The success of STEP is driven in large part by the accessibility and willingness of the business community to partner with STEP and its trainees, who are working in a wide breadth of fields throughout St. Kitts and Nevis – agriculture, air condition, automotive repairs/mechanics, building technology and construction, customer service, landscaping, and the list goes on.
I take this opportunity, then, to commend both the staff of STEP and the business community for the remarkable job that they have been doing in professionalizing the training programme and in inculcating a sense of responsibility and accountability in the trainees. On Saturday, February 16th, the Week of Activities will cap off with a staff bonding and team-building event focused on enhancing interpersonal work relationships and togetherness. I wish this exercise every success. I gather that STEP will also undertake a special project on Saturday, February 16th as part of its contribution to the 2nd Annual National Volunteer Day.
The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis and the business community are solidly investing in you because we firmly believe that you have a role to play in building the future of our nation. It is therefore incumbent on you to plan for the next step of your career.
Make a plan. Keep dreaming and planning, and most importantly take the initiative to implement and execute. Develop good budgeting; saving and spending habits. Always plan the journey you will take to get to the next step. The next step may be to set up your own business or to find a higher paying job within the Government or Private Sector because you have upgraded yourselves.
If you don’t plan on getting somewhere, sooner or later you will simply stall and get stuck in neutral. If there’s one thing you can ever do in your career, you should plan – plan to grow, do well and succeed, because failing to plan is planning to fail.
With these words, I now take pleasure in officially opening the Week of Activities to mark the second anniversary of the Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP). May it continue to go from strength to strength.
May God bless our people; may God bless our country.
To God we give all glory.
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