150,000 trainees benefit from the program
In March 2002, the On-the-Job (OJT) program was implemented to fill a gap that existed between certification and job readiness. Today, the program has seen over 150,000 trainees use it as a stepping stone to their desired career path.
As part of the commemoration of its 20th anniversary, the OJT Division of the Ministry of Labor and Small Business Development will launch its Tracer study to collect data from its former trainees and training providers with the aim of examining the impact of the OJT program on their lives. , livelihoods and career transformation.
“Evaluating the impact of the program over 20 years, but more specifically over eight years under the Ministry of Labor, is quite significant, and therefore a major conversation is underway with a key stakeholder to help the division to first engage in a pilot project over the new months. Information from this project will be used to design and implement a major follow-up study,” Minister Stephen McClashie told Business Day.
The OJT program has been designed to offer new graduates the opportunity to discover the world of work and to acquire practical professional skills and work experience in the public and private sectors as well as in non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Initially, the program was under the Ministry of Education, but was later reassigned to the Ministry of Labour. It is open to nationals between the ages of 16 and 35 with at least three O’Levels or a craft certificate, and runs on a 24-month cycle.
“The objectives of the program are to provide trainees with practical, work-ready skills and on-the-job training opportunities to help them gain a foothold in the job market; match the academic and technical skills of future trainees with the needs of the labor market; encourage interns to adopt work ethics and attitudes that will increase their ability to obtain sustainable employment; and developing the country’s human resource capacity.
Interns receive a stipend determined by the level at which they are facilitated – CXC or Craft Certificate, A’Levels or Technical Diploma, Associate’s Degree, Undergraduate, Postgraduate.
McClashie said all training providers must be registered with the OJT division. Trainees from public providers receive 100% of their stipend directly from the program. With private providers, he said, “the arrangement is that 60% of the allowance will be reimbursed by the government. Therefore, interns assigned to private sector providers will receive 100% of their stipend from the provider and the provider then provides reimbursement documents to be paid monthly or quarterly depending on their submission rate.
The Minister said that although in the past trainees have complained of long waiting times for their allowances, this problem no longer exists.
“But we have to admit that over the past two years, interns have been paid late on about four occasions due to office closures following the implementation of covid19 regulations at the division, which has affected the processing process, as staff cannot process the allowance from home.
As of January 2022, 3,562 interns were enrolled in the program – 3,505 in the public sector, 65 in the private sector and 92 in NGOs. The Minister said that because NGOs generally depend on sponsorship to run their operations, under the OJT program they are treated as public training providers.
“The government recognizes the importance of the service provided by the NGO sector and has therefore agreed to pay 100% of the stipend paid to interns under the OJT scheme.”
The minister said that despite the pandemic, over the past two years, the OJT division has received more than 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 to bridge the gap between the worlds of school and work.
Mc Clashie said that since the start of the pandemic, although the application process itself remains manual, with applicants having to physically drop off completed forms at the various regional offices of the division, many adjustments have had to be made to the program to ensure its continuity.
“With covid19 restrictions limiting travel and mass gatherings, the OJT program adapted to the new dynamics of the pandemic and quickly adjusted its five-day orientation for new interns to a virtual outreach session of a day. This training usually took place at the Cipriani College of Labor and Co-operative Studies and included an average of 400 new trainees onboarded on a monthly basis.
He said that although it was on a smaller scale, the virtual orientation made it possible to continue placement of trainees. The OJT division has also transitioned to conducting placement interviews virtually.
But even with these adjustments, there have been challenges, including reduced opportunities for interns due to pandemic-related restrictions, and reduced operational production due to the implementation of rotation and work home. However, he said, the ministry has taken steps to ensure the program does not succumb to the pandemic.
Since 2020, the OJT division team had to come up with new initiatives to keep trainees engaged. Among these is a virtual exit seminar, which began in July 2021 for interns with less than three months remaining on the program. The seminar is facilitated by employment agencies, start-up financing institutions and experienced entrepreneurs.
“The goal of this bi-monthly seminar is to facilitate the process of transitioning from an on-the-job intern to a sustainable employee or business owner.”
The Minister said that while things will never return to what we know to be “normal”, the program will continue to evolve based on labor market needs and the opportunities offered by training providers.
“Division staff continue to urge employers to work with the program to provide much needed opportunities for TT youth.”
For more information about the OJT program, visit the OJT website at www.labour.gov.tt or call 671-3457 | 671-4447 | 671-7822 | 800-4OJT (4658)