Unemployed given chance to learn horticultural skills
Works Minister Derrick Burgess yesterday gave details on a programme to train unemployed people in horticultural skills by cleaning up the Railway Trail.
Under the Railway Trail Hiring Initiative, it’s hoped 24 people will become trained and certified in horticulture to improve their chances of getting full-time jobs with private landscaping companies.
The first group of six trainees have now been selected for the project, Mr Burgess told a press conference this morning.
They are Makai Young, Tekania Swan, Koshon Lightbourne, Kennejah Darrell, Davon Cann and Teo Burgess.
The scheme, which will begin in September, is designed to get Bermudians back to work in the economic crisis. It will also help landscaping firms, which are said to be struggling to survive because of Government’s moratorium on foreign workers.
Mr Burgess told the media: “This initiative is a direct result of listening to the needs of the private sector, and in particular, the landscaping industry, which highlighted the challenges with training and retaining Bermudians to fill the many jobs now held by contract workers.
“We came up with the concept of the Railway Trail Hiring Initiative, shared our vision with the technical officers at the Department of Parks, then challenged them to make this vision become a reality.
“The Ministry of Public Works recognises that by creating this partnership with private contractors, we are able to provide a means of hiring additional people without having to invest in additional resources such as vehicles and tools and equipment that would be required if the programme was run completely in-house.
“A win-win for all.”
Jeff Sousa, owner of Sousa’s Landscape Management and the chairman of the occupational advisory committee for horticulture, encouraged the plan but expressed concern Government is doubling up on a similar initiative organised through Bermuda College and the National Training Board.
Mr Sousa, a One Bermuda Alliance member, said Government should have consulted with his committee, which he described as a who’s who of horticulture in Bermuda.
“I’m encouraged every time anyone takes the time to teach our young people the technical trades because Bermuda needs qualified plumbers, masons, carpenters and gardeners,” Mr Sousa told
The Royal Gazette.
“I support this but wish they had worked closer with our committee as we certainly have an apprenticeship course starting on September 8, which many of us on the committee have been working very hard on since 1996.”
Mr Burgess said the individuals taking part in the new programme have expressed a keen interest in landscaping and were selected after an extensive interview process in consultation with the Department of Labour and Training.
Skills to be taught include the safe use of horticultural equipment, basic use of tools, mowing, trimming, edging, pruning, chainsaw use, hard landscaping such as surfacing, fence repairs, sign and bench installation; pesticide and herbicide application and tradesman skills such as carpentry and masonry.
Mr Sousa said he hoped Government’s programme would teach certain attitudes lacking in some young workers today.
“The first course they should teach our young people is on work ethic, time management and people skills,” he said.
“Whenever I talk to other landscape and horticulture owners, they want someone to show up on time and work all day, don’t spend half of it texting or updating your Facebook page.”
Mr Burgess said the programme is open to men and women over the age of 18; the successful candidates will work a seven-and-a-half hour day, five days per week during their training period.
Bermuda Employers’ Council has estimated 3,000 people have lost their jobs in a two-year period during the economic meltdown, including many in construction.
Earlier this month, Government announced it is planning to create training programmes to get people back to work after more than 1,000 people registered at its recent unemployment registration drive.
People will be taught new skills on projects including the revitalisation of Springfield National Trust property, while 20 or 30 unskilled labourers will carry out a body of minor works provided by the Ministry of Government Estates and Information.