Scores of applicants in search of employment filled the courtyard at C.R. Walker Senior High School for Labour on the Blocks on Saturday afternoon.
Robert Miller, a 44-year-old father of two, was one of those applicants.
He said he has not had a steady job in nearly five years.
“As a father, being the head of the home, it [isn’t] easy because you work for people and sometimes they don’t pay you,” Miller said.
“At the end of the day, your child says, ‘Daddy, I’m hungry’ or [says], ‘Daddy, I have a test in the morning. I need some money.’ And you have to tell them you [don’t] have it because the [men those haven’t] paid you yet.
“All that can break up a home. When a man, who [has been] providing for 10 years or nine years, when all of a sudden, all the doors close in his face, nobody wants to give you a job. If you get a job, you have to go out there to do a little carpentry work or something else and still don’t get the money on time. It can be discouraging.”
Miller said he only wants to gain stable employment from the Labour on the Blocks job fair so he can provide for his family.
Although she’s only been unemployed for three weeks, Robyn Casimir, 24, a former barista, said she cannot wait to start working again and hopes that she will walk away from the job fair with something.
“I don’t have anyone depending on me and I know I’ve been without a job for a short time, but I really want to find something in sales or maybe another job as a barista,” she said.
The latest Labour Force Survey released by the Department of Statistics revealed that the national unemployment rate rose from 10 percent in May 2018 to 10.7 percent in November 2018.
Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes claimed 1,200 individuals have gained employment from the Labour on the Blocks initiative, which has taken place over many months.
He said the Department of Labour was set to process at least 300 applicants on Saturday.
“This is a very good turnout for us today,” he said.
“It gives us a lot of hope for especially the young people. We have 16 companies represented here and all of them have vacancies. We tell companies come if you have vacancies. If you don’t, just don’t come to give false hope, especially to the people who are being interviewed.”
He said his ministry is concerned by recent unemployment figures, which revealed that young women ages 15 to 24 and women ages 25 to 54 were more likely to be unemployed than their male counterparts.
Foulkes said, “We need to find a systematic, permanent way to address that issue. Just an event like this cannot solve the problem, so that’s something that we’re looking at, at the Department of Labour.”
Denise Ferguson, 54, who has been unemployed for four months, said in spite of the Labour Force Survey she remains hopeful that she will gain employment sometime soon.
When asked if she believes her age might hinder job opportunities, Ferguson said, “I hope not because in my case if I have a young person as my boss, I don’t feel [any] way about it. I embrace that. I work along with a team and I learn from that younger person because there’s a lot of things I don’t know.”