Pri­vate sec­tor shuts door on dis­abled N YS ap­pli­cants

Jamaica Gleaner - - SOCIAL | SOMETHING EXTRA - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter jo­van.john­son@glean­erjm.com

SOME PRI­VATE-SEC­TOR com­pa­nies are al­legedly turn­ing up their noses at em­ploy­ing young, dis­abled Ja­maicans as part of the Na­tional Youth Ser­vice (NYS) sum­mer work pro­gramme.

Over the years, hun­dreds of pri­vate-sec­tor or­gan­i­sa­tions have part­nered with the NYS to ac­cept youth placed at their busi­nesses dur­ing the sum­mer months.

But Naketa West, NYS act­ing ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, re­vealed dur­ing last Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing of the Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Ap­pro­pri­a­tion Com­mit­tee (PAAC) of Par­lia­ment, that it has been dif­fi­cult get­ting em­ploy­ment for some youth.

PAAC com­mit­tee mem­ber Mikael Phillips raised the is­sue, point­ing to pri­vate-sec­tor or­gan­i­sa­tions who, he said, “give ver­bal com­mit­ments, but when you ac­tu­ally come to en­gage them with the in­di­vid­u­als, there is no se­ri­ous take-up”.

West agreed, say­ing the prob­lem is “ram­pant”.

“We do have a chal­lenge as it re­lates to en­gag­ing pri­vate-sec­tor part­ners as ... [in terms of] per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties. We’ve em­ployed what we call the ‘sup­ported work ex­pe­ri­ence model’ where the per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties are sup­ported by job coaches. They are more in­ten­sive in how we re­cruit and se­cure place­ments and, so far, for that pro­gramme, we have se­cured pri­vate-sec­tor place­ment,” she said.

“But oth­er­wise, for the grad­u­ate work-ex­pe­ri­ence pro­gramme, the sum­mer pro­gramme, those chal­lenges are still ex­ist­ing, and it is ram­pant. It is very dif­fi­cult in se­cur­ing those place­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for six months – [or] for even three weeks – for per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties who need the op­por­tu­nity to be ex­posed to work ex­pe­ri­ence.”

IS­SUES TO CON­SIDER

Den­nis Chung, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer at the Pri­vate Sec­tor Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Ja­maica, said he was not aware that mem­bers were re­fus­ing dis­abled per­sons, but noted that there are is­sues to be con­sid­ered.

“It’s not that there’s no takeup. There’s a sig­nif­i­cant amount of peo­ple that go to NYS. If you look at it from a per­cent­age point of view, it might be low, but if you look at it from a num­bers [point of view], one could ar­gue it might not be bad. Peo­ple make their de­ci­sions based on their own re­quire­ments, and many times, what peo­ple do is as­sess what their needs are,” he told The Gleaner.

“We’ll do our best in terms of try­ing to sen­si­tise our mem­bers.”

He said the PSOJ would never coun­te­nance dis­crim­i­na­tion of dis­abled per­sons.

“There are com­pa­nies in the pri­vate sec­tor who ac­tu­ally al­lo­cate spa­ces for [dis­abled] peo­ple and do have peo­ple who are dis­abled work­ing in the or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

NOT SUR­PRISED

Mean­while, Floyd Mor­ris, a lead­ing dis­abil­i­ties ad­vo­cate and deputy op­po­si­tion spokesman on labour, said he was not sur­prised at the re­ports com­ing from the NYS.

“If there is such a prob­lem, the NYS has to come to the ta­ble with some spe­cific fig­ures as to what the sit­u­a­tion is, be­cause you would want to be able to com­pare what the take-up of reg­u­lar NYS ap­pli­cants has been in com­par­i­son with what it has been with per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties. I know that there is a big prob­lem with em­ploy­ment of per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties right across the so­ci­ety – in the pub­lic sec­tor, and it’s even worse in the pri­vate sec­tor.”

West did not give a break­down of the num­ber of per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties who ap­plied this sum­mer, the ones who were suc­cess­ful in be­ing placed, those who ac­tu­ally worked, or spe­cific rea­sons for re­fusals.

How­ever, Mor­ris, who is blind, said the sit­u­a­tion calls for “the ex­pe­di­tious im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Dis­abil­i­ties Act” that was passed by the Par­lia­ment in 2014, af­firm­ing the prin­ci­ple that a per­son with a dis­abil­ity has the same fun­da­men­tal rights as any other per­son.

“If we don’t have leg­isla­tive pro­vi­sions to pro­tect per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties against dis­crim­i­na­tion, we are go­ing to con­tinue to see com­pa­nies re­fus­ing to em­ploy per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties,” he added.

The NYS se­lects thou­sands of young peo­ple yearly for its sum­mer work pro­gramme, which is geared to­wards de­vel­op­ing em­ploy­a­bil­ity skills and vol­un­teerism.

West said more than 5,650 peo­ple were em­ployed un­der the pro­gramme this sum­mer.

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