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Jobseekers, some more hopeful than others, attend job fair

With nothing to lose but a few hours in the hot sun, Rechiel Smith, 30, who attended the Labour on the Blocks job fair on Saturday, said after two years of searching he has lost all hope at finding a job.

There were scores of individuals holding manila folders in the C.V. Bethel Senior High School courtyard.

Some stood in scattered lines waiting for their names to be called and others moved from tent to tent speaking with representatives from different companies, hoping to leave with a job.

However, Smith said he was not one of those hopeful individuals.

He said his last job paid minimum wage and required him to offload five 40-foot trailers daily in the heat.

“It’s been extremely difficult finding a job,” Smith said.

“The jobs that you do get, the pay is degrading. They want to pay you $210 a week for like extremely intense labor.

“[The job hunt] is extremely discouraging. It would make you resort to some things that you don’t really want to do, but you [have] to do anyway. But you know that’s how it is on this little island.”

He said he attended the job fair because he has “nothing to lose anyway”.

“I don’t really have any hopes at all. For this year, I’ve given like 30 resumes and I haven’t received one call back. So, I’m not hoping for anything.”

He added: “If I get a call, I get a call. It is what it is.”

Kendnira Minus and Vonika Dames, both 19, said they refuse to lose hope, however.

They graduated high school two years ago and have not been able to secure a job since they started their job hunt the day after graduation.

“We’ve given out about 50 resumes,” Minus said.

“But nothing.”

She added: “I don’t understand the system. In order to get a job, you need experience.”

Dames chimed in, “In order to have experience you need to work. But you won’t give me a chance, and I can’t have the experience to work. I may want the position. I may be as qualified, but you’re not taking me because I don’t have experience. Without a job I can’t pay my bills or school fee.”

Not all individuals at Saturday’s Labour on the Blocks were unemployed.

Rosie Bethel, 33, has a job but said that it simply isn’t enough.

“The job I’m at isn’t making much sense,” she said.

“What I mean is that it’s paying $210 and you’re working more than you’re actually (paying me for) and so forth. I’m trying to find something else. Plus, with the VAT, one job won’t cut it in The Bahamas.”

She said she won’t complain but she hopes to find a second job because of her kids.

“I have two kids,” Bethel said.

“They didn’t ask to be here so I have to find a way to provide for them.”

In July, the Department of Statistics released the Labour Force Survey May 2018 results.

The survey found that employment rose by 2.2 percent since November 2017.

It also noted that youth unemployment increased from 22.1 percent to 24.1 percent, and discouraged workers increased by 6.9 percent.

Discouraged workers are defined as individuals who are not looking for work because they believe there are no jobs available.

On Saturday, Deputy Director of Labour Patrenda Brice said, according to the most recent figures, approximately 1,200 individuals have gained employment from the Labour on the Blocks job fairs.

“However, we have a few companies who have not yet opened… and they are still interviewing persons,” she said.

“We have construction companies who have projects that have not yet started. We’re still interviewing for the last three or four Labour on the Blocks.”

Brice also said individuals who find themselves unsuccessful at the job fair should contact the Department of Labour to find out how they can improve their employability.

“Maybe you need to tweak your resume,” she said.

“… We just launched our one-step service center. That is there for you. Sometimes you’re not ready for a job. We’re here to assist you, resume writing, interviewing and it’s all of that that we do. Sometimes it’s long and laborsome, but in the long run you will be successful.”

Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said each business at the fair was expected to employ between two and 40 individuals.

According to Foulkes, 450 people were processed during the event.

“I’m told by Ms. Brice, who is the coordinator, and also the other officers, that the business community wants us to do another one before Christmas,” he said.

“So, we’ll have to go back to the drawing board, my permanent secretary and a lot of the other officers to make a decision on whether we’ll do another one before Christmas.”

He added that the Department of Labour plans to host two specialty job fairs.

“We have a shortage of Bahamian divers,” he said.

“We still have a lot of applicants for labor certificates for Bahamian divers. These are mostly [people] who go out on the ships and mostly dive crawfish. The Ministry of Agriculture and our ministry have formed a committee to have a specialty Labour on the Blocks event.”

He said they hope to host this before Christmas.

Foulkes added that they are also planning a Labour on the Blocks for the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services, where construction companies would come out and allow inmates who are expected to be released soon to apply for jobs. 

Jasper Ward

Staff Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues.
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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