* Photo by B. Candace Ray. All aboard: In this June 2007 photo pre-dating the Back to Work Programme, workers hopeful of a day’s employment wait to board the Hustle Trucks.
* Photo by B. Candace Ray. All aboard: In this June 2007 photo pre-dating the Back to Work Programme, workers hopeful of a day’s employment wait to board the Hustle Trucks.
In early 2008, one member of the Construction Association of Bermuda (CAOB), Jane Correia of Correia Construction, approached the Board of Directors of the Association to get the construction industry behind an initiative to expand the productive Bermudian labour force.

While unemployment in Bermuda is relatively low compared to most jurisdictions, local employers (especially in construction) experience ongoing frustration with the lack of work ethic among the Bermudian workforce. A lack of training, and general education in basic values such as timekeeping and respect for authority amongst the available human resources require a large amount of non-productive time on the part of business managers.

As a group of managers and employers, the directors of the Construction Association had an easy decision to get behind the new initiative.

Unemployable?

The basic idea was to get the 'wall sitters' re-assimilated into the local workforce. But how to do that with the very people most employers would consider 'unemployable'?

With the directors of the CAOB behind her, Mrs. Correia took the idea to the Minister of Labour, the Hon. Lt. Col. David Burch. The Minister immediately saw an avenue to take the initiative from idea to reality by linking the CAOB contingent with the Bermuda Housing Corporation's (BHC) Hustle Truck Programme. Thus, the 'Back To Work Programme' (BTW) was formed.

The Hustle Truck had an established system for dealing with those who sought work, but were socially uneducated in how to approach employers, apply for jobs and, perhaps most importantly, to understand their value to the employer once they got a job.

Bryant Richards, the Hustle Truck Programme coordinator, had immense experience in dealing with those on the wrong side of the social mainstream due to theft, drugs and other anti-social behaviour. They had an established process of drug testing and other criteria for entering and staying in the Hustle Truck Programme.

These screening processes were what made the connection with the Hustle Truck an attractive proposition for the CAOB as a group of employers. Rather than having to assess everyone who walked off the street looking for work, suddenly there was an offer of pre-screening of potential employees.

The joint committee of CAOB directors and BHC principals, including the Minister who directly participated in the process worked for many months to create a set of documents that formed the backbone of a new process for integrating top candidates from the Hustle Truck into participating member firms for employment. These documents included everything from basic employee information to the guiding document for division and allocation of responsibilities, including a roles and responsibilities matrix to make the roles of both parties perfectly clear.

In short, the process and aims of the programme are as follows: The Hustle Truck Programme will provide suitable candidates and be responsible for administrative support, while CAOB member companies will agree to accept and train the pre-screened and therefore pre-qualified candidates. The ultimate intention is to develop these candidates into successful professionals in the field of their choice, while building self-esteem and a sense of worth through integration into the mainstream workforce.

The Hustle Truck also:

* Ensures all candidates are in possession of a valid social insurance number, a bank account, a CV, and familiarity with their rights under the Employment Act 2000.

* Provides back up social counselling services to aid the candidate in reintegration/rehabilitation.

* Provides mediation and issue resolution as may be appropriate.

* Maintains records of candidates from entrance to the Hustle Truck Programme, through to completion of the Back to Work Programme.

In exchange, participating CAOB member firms:

* Will accept qualified candidates as entry-level employees, with no reservation or bias.

* Pay the candidate at a basic agreed wage (equal across all BTW candidates), with all benefits entitled to all other employees in the company.

* Maintain a three-month probationary period for the candidate in accordance with the company's policies and the Employment Act.

* Utilize resources available from government to aid in the candidate's assimilation into the workforce.

* Conduct an interim review after two-months, along with Hustle Truck administrators, to determine progress and evaluate the feasibility of a vocation change.

* Maintain representatives on the BTW Committee, with one member acting as Committee Chair.

Dismissal from a CAOB member company during the probationary period constitutes a complete relapse of rehabilitative training and requires that the candidate re-start the Hustle Truck Programme before they can be referred to the BTW Committee again.

In mid-February 2009, the Back To Work Programme was launched with a low-key press conference to introduce the first batch of candidates placed into employment with CAOB firms. This initial placement was considered a trial, and one year on, we are happy to report some success, as several of the original candidates remain productive contributors to their respective employers.

While this may only be a small success, barely scratching the surface, it is hoped that other local industries will follow the example of the construction industry and incorporate this model into successful programmes to tap into Bermuda's most valuable of all resources, its people.