French-side youngsters turn out in droves for employment forum

POSTED: 10/14/13 11:56 AM

GREAT BAY/MARIGOT-The unemployment rate among young people on French Saint Martin is estimated at more than 50 percent of the young adult population. Chronic unemployment and in some cases underemployment was the reason why several agencies partnered last week to host the Employment Forum 2013 at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of St. Martin in Concordia.

The event attracted more than a thousand young people some of whom spent all day cramped in stairwells waiting for an opportunity to have their application selected and thus proceed to the “Job Dating” phase of their quest for gainful employment. Some had basic school leaving diplomas while others had higher diplomas but due to a struggling economy could not seem to land serious jobs. Not wanting to waste time a group of industrious youth decided to take courses in tourism and commerce as they await entry into the job market.

One young woman visited the fair from 9:00 am and was not surprised that at 2:00 pm she was still there, trying to compete with hundreds of other youth. She was not discouraged though.

“I left school last year and it is hard to get a job. But I don’t feel discouraged, I won’t give up. I gave in my résumé and I know my name will be called sometime before the day is out, so I am being patient. It’s not like I am not doing anything, I registered in a tourism course and it will finish in December so in the meantime I am still trying to keep occupied. But it is hard for young people on the French side. It’s not a nice situation right now,” the young woman who was dressed in business attire said.

Sabrina Payne and George  Bourget  of the Préfecture offered a lucrative deal to job seekers; look for a job and we will fund it for you.

“We are proposing contracts for our young people who are between the ages of 16 and 26 who don’t have a diploma or a low one to work in an association. The advantage of that is that the association doesn’t have to pay anything to these young people for three years that they work with them. The Préfecture will pay 75 percent while the Collectivité will pay 25 percent of the salary. This will encourage the young to go out and find a job. Once the employer is willing to hire them, then we pay the salary. This will also help the young people to gain experience and the employer can keep them on if they want,” Payne stated.

Only young people who have been registered at the Pole Emploi for more than six months are eligible for this system. Payne said that the response was overwhelming on Thursday.

“The young people are really interested because they know how difficult it is to find a job these days. The good thing about it is that the employer doesn’t have to pay anything. For the first half of the day, we have on record more than 50 people.  This contract just came into effect a year ago  and we deal with young people in Guadeloupe as well. The amount of salary all depends on the job description.”

The Social Cohesion unit of the Collectivité also fielded questions from young people, among them single mothers. Stanford  Gertie, a counselor attached to the unit said that a lot of people came for information. “I also see a long line for the job interviews. We know that a lot of people are looking for work and we hope they get through. It is not easy but we are trying. The unemployment rate is very high among young people and we also have older people who were laid off and are looking for jobs. The unemployment rate among young people is over 50 percent for sure, but only the Pole Emploi has all of the documented information, ” Gertie explained.

“We take care of the insertions of the young people. We help them with orientation, motivation, direction to the right offices to go. We also help young people with funds for their projects such as driver’s license, training courses or transportation,” she added.

Others agencies participating in the Employment Forum included Direct Assurances, Delta Petroleum (DP), Aide Personnalisee de Retour A l’Emploi, Centre de Formation des Apprentis, Ergos Antilles St. Martin, La Dom l’Agence de l’Outre-Mer pour la Mobilité, Opacalia and Cap Emploi, an organization that helps the disabled find jobs.



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