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Suspension of training grant hits construction

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Construction industry leaders are disappointed after an annual government grant set up to support training programmes was suspended because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Construction Association of Bermuda said it hoped talks with the Department of Workforce Development would result in a funding agreement — but added that it was already looking for alternative sources.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Labour said yesterday that the DWD was in contact with the CAOB “to continue a working partnership” and added that the Government was moving towards a “fee for service” model to provide vocational and trades schemes.

It was understood that the CAOB has received $80,000 a year since 2003. The money was spent on educational programmes and the organisation said it met the DWD on a regular basis to report on its work.

A construction association spokesman added: “Historically, the CAOB has worked hard to create and maintain a partnership with DWD.

“Over the years, in conjunction with DWD, CAOB continued to develop training programmes that were cost-effective and useful to the local workforce and construction community.

“It was CAOB who brought the National Centre for Construction Education and Research to Bermuda in 2003.

“It is for that reason, we were surprised and dismayed when our annual grant was suspended in March 2020 due to Covid.

“We understood that Government had suspended all grants until further notice.”

The spokesman added: “It could be understood that some of these educational offerings could be considered essential given the nature of opportunities to local young aspiring tradespeople.”

He said that the CAOB, a not-for-profit organisation, waited over the island's shelter-in-place regulations, from April 4 to May 2, “to engage directly with DWD” after the lockdown ended.

The spokesman said: “We pursued dialogue into July when we were told we would have to reapply for any and all programmes, with each being evaluated on an individual basis.

“This is surprising as we are the NCCER sponsor representative. The CAOB offer and administrate the only technical curriculum through both public high schools and the Bermuda College.

“While we are hopeful of more fruitful dialogue ahead, we have yet to reach an agreement with DWD on our funding for these programmes.

“One thing we have always maintained is that with the local employment profile and the cost of overseas education, local technical instruction offers incredible value for money.

“It is surprising that we have to continually repeat and demonstrate this point.”

The spokesman added: “CAOB is actively seeking — and will welcome — alternative additional funding partners to allow our programmes to continue.”

The spokesman highlighted that talks continued with the DWD and that the CAOB had a “great relationship” with the government department.

A Ministry of Labour spokesman said yesterday: “The Government is transitioning to a contract fee-for-service basis to provide vocational, technical and trades programmes that meet the needs of the Bermudian workforce.

“The new service agreement would ensure that identified training deliverables are progressed in an efficient and timely manner.”

He explained last week: “The Department of Workforce Development continues to work in partnership with the Construction Association of Bermuda to plan and deliver vocational and technical training programmes to individuals interested in career and development opportunities in the trades and construction industry.

“Most recently, Government, in partnership with the CAOB, launched the masonry apprenticeship programme, which provides opportunities for Bermudians to obtain the necessary skills and experience to secure employment at major projects in the construction industry.

“As the Government works to reduce unemployment levels and address the financial challenges facing the country, we must be especially prudent with how we spend taxpayers' money.

“As such, additional training and education providers have been invited to assist in getting Bermudians back to work, which may involve the reallocation of funds to assist in the training and re-employment of Bermudians.

“Ultimately, the Government is working to ensure key deliverables are met, we receive value for money, and Bermudians are employed.”

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Published August 19, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated August 19, 2020 at 3:54 pm)

Suspension of training grant hits construction

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