By The Star Staff
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia and Economic Development & Commerce (DDEC by its Spanish acronym) Secretary Manuel Cidre Miranda announced on Tuesday the recruitment of more than 1,600 people who will be trained and certified to care for the elderly or people with functional diversity.
The individuals were recruited through the Recruitment of Home Service Aides initiative created by DDEC’s Workforce Connection (Conexión Laboral) Program to promote the reintegration of people into the labor market.
The program relies on an investment of over $20 million from Title I funds of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) in collaboration with 64 municipalities.
“It is evident that there is a great need for service aides or caregivers at home who can assist our older adults,” the governor said. “The government, their families, and the private sector must come together to help and care for them as they did for us in the past. As a result of this situation, we have taken action to develop a new initiative that will lead us to recruit and hire more than 1,600 home service assistants to accompany and assist with domestic tasks. We will be offering training and certifications that enable these people to support elderly people or people with functional diversity.”
Pierluisi added that “the achievements we have had in these past three years in terms of the increase in jobs are impressive, with more than 110,000 additional jobs, with the lowest unemployment rate in our history, 5.7 percent.”
“As a public policy, we have promoted important initiatives such as increases in the minimum wage and the expanded work credit, as well as training and internship programs, which have contributed significantly to the increase in labor participation that we have had, which today has reached 45 percent, the highest level since 2009,” the governor said. “On the other hand, my administration is aware of the demographic changes we are experiencing and the importance of addressing the needs and aspirations of our older adults. According to Census data, older adults on the island represent around a quarter of our population. By the year 2050, that percentage will increase to around 40 percent.”
The home services assistant is responsible for providing companionship and help with household chores. As of Tuesday, any displaced adult or out-of-school youth can go to their nearest local Job Connection location to request participation in the job program.
Displaced workers and young people – between 18 and 24 years old – who are not studying may qualify to be hired and receive certification in Basic Competencies in Service and Care of the Elderly. After training, Workforce Connection will insert the assistants into the workforce with first-hand employment experience in the field. The certification will allow participants to work in the area of home care, health, nutrition, recreation and socialization, providing tools to develop positive attitudes, sensitivity, dignified treatment, respect, well-being, autonomy, self-esteem, active old age, and quality of life.
Cidre Miranda added that “we must provide citizens with the necessary tools for their professional development, and in this case, we are not only positively impacting our workforce by training them for the areas with the greatest need for employment on the island, we are also supporting a community that needs assistance and that continues to increase in population, so it must be a priority.”
Mariamelia Sueiro Álvarez, interim director of Workforce Connection, noted that part of the initiative is ensuring that WIOA funds are equitably distributed among eligible participants while supporting people who need assistance.
“In Puerto Rico, there is a great need for home service assistants,” she said. “Workforce Connection will be delegating WIOA funds, in collaboration with more than 60 municipalities, to cover the entire training and recruitment process of participants. With this effort, the interested participant will be allowed to enter the workforce and obtain a certification that will help them perform and contribute to the economic development of Puerto Rico.”
The jobs will be available for six months, or 1,080 hours, with a pay rate of $12 per hour, and valid until June 30, 2024. The recruitment process is taking place until mid-January. Those interested can visit any of the 15 closest regional offices of the Job Connection Program, the Single Management Centers or the American Job Centers. The goal prospectively is for the participating employees, who are subsidized by WIOA, to obtain a permanent job with the experience and competencies developed.
Labor and Human Resources Secretary Gabriel Maldonado González, noted that “we have historic numbers in the labor market, and this $20 million incentive is positive for our older adults, but it is replicated in the labor market itself through other perspectives.”
“For example, providing effective mechanisms such as those just announced by the governor and Secretary Cidre to support care for the elderly, among other issues, works so that more people can enter the labor market,” he said.
The governor emphasized that “it is essential that we promote the environment for the creation of more and better services for our older adults, taking into account the increase in the number of people in that population and looking at it as an opportunity instead of just a challenge.”
“Now, we are using this program to provide services to the elderly population, who are the reason for this initiative,” Pierluisi said. “We can say that we are here because of the legacy they have left us, because we value and always keep in mind their contributions.”