18 December 2012

Liberia: Labor Minister Gayflor Hints At 2013 Agenda

Labour Minister Varbah Gayflor Monday (Dec 17) highlighted her priority agenda for next year, and noted that 2012 has been a tough year of reforming the Ministry to appropriately respond to the labor needs of the country.

Minister Gayflor said in 2013, the Ministry will focus on creating more employment opportunities for Liberians by, among others, working with relevant authorities and partners to prepare them for the job market. "There should not be any jobs that Liberians are not qualified to do," she said.

The Ministry, Minister Gayflor noted, will, among others, engage into awareness programs to encourage young Liberians to seek education in fields and sectors that will easily provide them jobs than the usual Accounting and Management courses many students take at universities.

She said every year universities and colleges were putting out graduates, increasing the number of degree holders, but were not qualified for jobs in other fields, especially the sciences.

The Minister said it was time to advice Liberians to seek higher education in the sciences--oil, mineral and petroleum sectors--and young Liberians need to be encouraged in venturing into these areas.

She then touched on the reform agenda of the Ministry and how it intends to proceed. "The major challenge has been trying to really understand how to move the agenda of the Ministry: where we are and how to carry it forward," the former Gender and Development Minister told journalists at the validation of the Ministry's communication strategy for 2013.

Minister Gayflor noted that her administration has already produced a job description manual with qualification for every job at the Ministry which would promote efficiency and productivity. "You can't be a high school graduate and be a director; there are lots of qualified college degree holders out there and we have to bring them in to better serve," she said.

She said several classes of employees including hearing officers were short of academic qualifications but had the experience after serving for decades. These old hands, she said, would be maintained for a while to pass out knowledge and experiences to young college graduates as they fade out.

Under the reform agenda, Minister Gayflor stated that hearing officers and county attorneys need to be people who have graduated with legal minds, noting that only four of the country's labor county attorneys were college graduates while the rest were high school graduates.

"We've been trying to reform the Ministry and it has been a tough time...but we have finally gotten there and it's time to really work," the first ever Liberian female Labor Minister stated.

The minister noted that the Ministry was large with at least 26 directors, and that it has lots of work to do including labor issues and inspection to ensure a decent working environment in the country.

With the work manual and description in place, Minister Gayflor indicated that employees of the Ministry who are in the wrong places will be transferred to where they belong as a way of making their work and the Ministry more productive than what they have been.

The Ministry, she said, is moving into 2013 with new work plan and best practices to make it more responsive to the public demands.

Ahead, the Ministry will hire a coordinator to address the issue of child labor on plantations and farms in the country, beef up the inspectorate, create a hotline for the public to report labor malpractices, strengthen the national bureau of employment and create more awareness on child trafficking and other activities that dampen the future of the children.

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