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PWD Apprentices Break New Ground

 PWD Apprentices Break New Ground
Small group photo: (L-R) Adrian Jackson, Nigel Smith, Daniel Dawkins and Davanni James.
(Media credit: Information Officer Lennon Christian)

GEORGE TOWN, Grand Cayman (GIS) --  Public Works Department (PWD) team members, managers and Government leaders came together on Friday, 16 September 2016, to celebrate two milestones in the Department’s Apprenticeship programme.

At an after work gathering on the PWD compound, Infrastructure Minister Hon. Kurt Tibbetts commended three young men, Adrian Jackson, Daniel Dawkins and Davanni James for successfully completing two years stewardship which constitutes phase one of the Department’s new apprenticeship scheme.

Education Minister Tara Rivers also congratulated the graduates, and simultaneously announced a new PWD partnership with the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre (CIFEC).

“This is a special day for PWD, Government, and the Cayman Islands”, said PWD Director Max Jones. “This initiative is now well-established, and we are preparing to take on four full-time PWD apprentices – chosen from a field of 35 young applicants.”  Mr Jones went on to say “PWD has a long history of developing industry leaders in the Construction sector and this new initiative is one more step in formalizing this tradition”.

Attending Friday’s completion ceremony were Ministry of PLAHI officials including Chief Officer Alan Jones who echoed the sentiments of the Director, affirming the ministry’s commitment to the programme through its Deputy Chief Officer Tristan Hydes, as well as the PWD management team and staff of over 120. He also credited the forthcoming expansion with CIFEC to “thinking outside the box, teamwork and the removal of ‘silos’ within Government”

The three PWD apprentices are now promoted to Construction-Tech 2 (Designate) posts after having begun two years ago as Facility-Support Technicians 3 (Apprentices).

The apprenticeship programme was developed under the watchful eyes of Levi Allen who is responsible for Organizational Development, Training and Safety and was aided in delivering the hands on training by PWD’s skilled technicians along with technical staff such as Facilities Maintenance Coordinator Cathy Seymour and Acting Deputy Director (Operations & Works) David Johnson. Working as part of multi-skilled PWD teams, the apprentices developed competencies in the skilled trades providing technical support in carpentry, plumbing, electrical, air-conditioning and construction. They also commenced the academic portion of their training.

Now in phase two, for a year they will continue their formal training locally and overseas to obtain recognised certifications in their areas of specialisation: Adrian, in air-conditioning; Daniel, in construction; and Davanni, in facilities maintenance.

Another guest of honour at Friday’s ceremony was PWD’s Nigel Smith, who was the trailblazer for the apprenticeship initiative. Now a PWD Journeyman Plumber, in 2013 Nigel was the sole participant in a pilot-scheme.

To create the apprenticeship pilot within budgetary constraints, PWD managers eliminated their “common-laborer” positions to create the apprenticeship posts.

PWD officials noted that there were, and remain, PWD jobs to be filled in a range of areas. Like the private sector, they became concerned in recent times about the scarcity of job applicants with skills to perform key specialized roles.

To further bridge this gap, the new joint venture between CIFEC and PWD will launch this semester.  

In her remarks, Minister Rivers thanked PWD “for their continued patience and professionalism”. She noted, “Things are more technical now, Government has talked long about promoting job opportunities in trades, and I am happy to open this new pathway for our young people, in a way never before ventured.”

Over the course of 30 weeks students will complete two classroom days each week, covering technical aspects of construction trades and earn qualifications from recognised certifying bodies in addition to English, Math and other employability skills.

They will also spend three days weekly working alongside technicians to receive on-the-job training and mentoring.

This post high-school programme will see up to ten Year-12 CIFEC students become part- time apprentices at PWD. There are also positive spinoff effects for PWD staff, who will undertake special training to supervise and mentor the CIFEC students.  

PWD officials noted that there is urgent need to develop initiatives to address the next steps after these apprentices leave the programme. They are reassured however by the current support from government and the fact that they have in-house expertise and know-how to develop appropriate solutions that will take apprentices to full-fledged technicians able to service the local construction industry.

It is anticipated that this partnership will be a model for programmes being considered in other industries.