PHILIPSBURG:--- As the year 2016 closed, the Department of Labor Affairs & Social Services reflected on its trials and triumphs. Declared the “Year of Excellence,” 2016 was met with both advancement in products and services as well as many internal changes and other challenges. Great effort was and is being put in place in order to move the department continuously forward. The Department of Labor Affairs and Social Services is an execution branch of government that deals directly with the people of St. Maarten, often times at a low point in their lives (loss of job, medical coverage, etc.). It is, therefore, imperative that the department not only meets the needs of the clients but continuously strive to find solutions to many underlying societal problems.
The sections of the department that most urgently deal with the needs of clients are the Job Placement Unit and the Social Welfare Unit. It is important to find a way for the two sections to work together in the best interest of the clients. With this idea at the forefront, the management team embarked on an initiative to train personnel in international labor standards by taking part in ILO (International Labor Organization) training. Facilitated and coordinated by Section Head of Labor Market, Natasha Richardson, the endeavor had the main objective of strengthening the capacity and knowledge of the Job Placement Unit and support functions related to same. The purpose of the ILO Training Program was to close the gaps on the needs as identified and improve the services offered by the Job Placement Unit, and support services related to same.
The training, which began on Monday 13 February 2017 and ended on Friday 17 February 2017, was met with great enthusiasm by the officers of the job placement and social work units. The training was conducted by two instructors, Mr. Diego Rei (Port of Spain, Trinidad), and Ms. Donna Koeltz (Toronto, Canada). The week-long training focused on the following areas:
• Career Guidance and Counselling
• Skills need anticipation and matching
• Performance Management and Monitoring and Evaluation in relation to public employment services.
Exercises aimed at developing the competence of the responsible officers to offer state of the art services to job seekers within the new reorganized Job Placement Unit (Section Labor Market) and allow the latter to be managed adequately relating to its processes and services were conducted in form of role plays, presentations, and group exercises. During the sessions, the instructors presented useful information on ISCO codes and international labor standards. Information on counseling clients in such a way that essential information is recorded and sound advice is given in a solution-oriented manner was also emphasized. The department was also encouraged to examine its use of resources and to prioritize tasks so that maximum productivity is achieved.
Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, Honorable Emil Lee, lent his support to the training and also added to the conversation by offering an innovatively strategic plan to better facilitate job matching. He comments, "The Department of Labor has a critical function in our community, assisting our people to be placed in good jobs. As the department aspires to be a well-respected and successful institution, I applauded their decision to bring the ILO to assist with training and strategy development.” Therefore, as a result of the ILO Training Program, the department is committed to making significant changes that will improve the products and services not only to job seeking clients but business clientele as well. The department will implement changes that are more attractive to business clients while simultaneously providing services that are more beneficial for job seeking clients.
In the upcoming days, the management team will be reevaluating internal job functions and meeting with various team members to discuss a fruitful way forward, including the rebranding of the respective Units. This step is wholeheartedly supported by Minister Lee, who states, “True change begins with an openness and receptiveness to new or different ideas. I am delighted to see that the department has the courage to challenge their beliefs and old ways of doing things. I am extremely proud and happy with Department of Labor Affairs initiative and eagerness to innovate.”
Consequently, clients and patrons of the relevant sections should be prepared for positive changes in the near future. The ILO instructors will also be checking in periodically in the coming months and will provide one-on-one consultations in an effort to move the department in the right direction. The department welcomes the input and looks forward to working with the ILO representatives, as well as the positive exchange of ideas and solutions received from the Chamber of Unions representatives, Chamber of Commerce representatives, and Members of the Labor Tripartite Committee.