Caretaker PM launches historic policy initiatives

(SIG Press): Caretaker Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela on Sunday 4 February has launched two historic policy initiatives which the National Government under his leadership has commissioned to roll out this year.

These exciting initiatives included the new National Youth Data-base system and the Labour Mobility Policy and Strategy which are aimed at addressing the current high level of youth unemployment in the country.

These initiatives have been accomplished and operationalized during the caretaker period and the Government is optimistic they will secure greater youth employment and empowerment opportunities nationally and overseas.

On the national Youth Data-base initiative, the National Government has previously engaged an international technology consultancy firm to help develop an internal national-youth-database system to track and match skilled and unskilled labour to overseas labour markets.

The international company, Labrys, has been working on this project with a number of key Ministries to ensure the data system developed provides the correct information that can be managed in the Government’s ICTSU platform.

This national youth database system is now completed and has been installed in the Government’s ICTSU platform and is now available for use to SIG ministries and is expected to simplify recruitment processes.

This national youth data-base system is the first in the country that tries to capture the profiles of every youth in the country and maintains it in one single system. Currently many separate databases exist at training institutional levels, or in other institutions. However, none of them have captured the full profiles that will make them useful for matching with employment opportunities.

On the Labour Mobility Programme, the Solomon Islands Government has consolidated labour mobility schemes in 3 partner countries namely New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

The ‘Recognised Seasonal Employer [RSE]’ scheme with New Zealand has now reached 768 seasonal workers and the Government anticipates exceeding 800 workers in New Zealand by June 2019.

There are also two labour mobility schemes with Australia which included the seasonal workers programme (SWP) and more recently, the Pacific Labour Scheme [PLS] in which Solomon Islands is one of the four Pacific countries currently included in this scheme.

The SWP engages unskilled workers to work in farms and other industry not requiring skilled workers in Australia. It engages unskilled workers to work in farms and other industry not requiring skilled workers in Australia on a ‘6 month’ work visa.

The PLS is a new programme that is designed to allow Australian employers in various industries to recruit skilled and semi-skilled workers from Pacific countries to work in Australia on a ‘3 year’ work visa.

The Government’s labour mobility scheme with Australia has reached a phase of rapid growth and it is anticipating a rapid increase from current figures of 169 to exceed 400 by June 2019, with an estimated 291 workers in the SWP and 115 workers in the PLS.

The Solomon Islands government is intending to supply at least 5,000 workers per year in Australia within the next 5 years.

Similarly, the Canadian labour mobility scheme is growing at a very fast rate and offers two visa types – a 2-year work visa which is renewable, and a residency visa for periods longer than 2 years.

While the CITREC programme is relatively expensive, everyone that succeeds in the CITREC training is virtually guaranteed employment opportunity in Canada. To date, there are more than fifty Solomon Islanders in the Canadian market with a further 150 opportunities available for Solomon Island workers immediately across a range of sectors and industries.

Meanwhile, the national youth data base is expected to ease the recruitment processes between Solomon Islands and these partner countries in the near future.

This means for instance, graduates will soon be able to submit their credentials and work experiences for evaluation against international standards and once they meet experience assessment requirements, they will be part of a data bank of workers that employers will have access to and hire for job opportunities in these partner countries.

To coordinate these processes, the Government at the moment is expanding the capacity of the LMU in the MFAET to cope with the increasing demand to prepare and supply workers to meet the labour market demands in these partner labour mobility countries.