Minister of Home Affairs Michael Fahy *File photo
Minister of Home Affairs Michael Fahy *File photo

I am very pleased today to be able to provide an overview of the Budget for the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The proposed budget for 2013/14 reflects changes in service delivery and service levels for some established programmes and the inclusion of new initiatives designed to enhance the quality of service to the public offered by the various Departments. 

The Ministry of Home Affairs has responsibility for:

The Department of Labour and Training;

Registry General;

The Department of Immigration;

The Department of E-Government; and

Municipalities.

The total Ministry budget is Twenty One Million, and Seventy One Thousand Dollars ($21,071,000).

Of this amount, the Ministry Headquarters allocation, Head 93, totals Seven Million, One Hundred and Seventy Two Thousand Dollars ($7,172M).

The Current Account Estimates for Head 93 – the Ministry, includes funding for all of headquarters administration which is inclusive of grant funding for the Municipalities.

Like any Ministry headquarters, the Ministry’s mission is to direct and coordinate the activities of its Departments. 

You will already be aware that this Ministry like all others has been charged with three core objectives:

Strengthen the economy;

Create new jobs; and

Reduce violent crime.

As a result, the Ministry’s resources have been directed towards achieving these objectives.

As a demonstration of our commitment, the Ministry is actively engaged as a participant on the Economic Development Committee. As you are aware, this group is working to streamline regulatory processes and remove roadblocks and barriers associated with major developments in Bermuda in a bid to create new jobs.

As the economy grows we need to ensure that Bermudians are well prepared and positioned to take on the new jobs. 

And so, I think it’s very important to stress that the training of our Bermudians is a key focus and priority for this Ministry.

To this end, the selection process for the National Training Board that assists with strategic planning and oversight of the Department of Labour and Training is set to take on a new direction under this government.  

It is envisaged that the Board will serve as the umbrella training organization bringing together representatives from existing training bodies and associations under one umbrella; it is further anticipated that the Organizations and Associations that they represent will in turn serve as Occupational Advisory Committees.

The Board’s mandate is to develop a National Training Plan and to oversee the implementation of that plan.  The plan will consider the needs to the Bermuda economy today and in the future and include what will ultimately become Nationally Recognised Training that is, training packages, qualifications, accredited courses, skill sets, units of competency, to name a few.

The proposed plan will also include recommendations with respect to resource allocation pertaining to scholarship programmes and training budget alignment for the Department of Labour and Training. 

Ideally, the training plan will identify synergies and points of integration so that we are better able to leverage and support existing training programmes being developed and delivered by the various training organizations and industry associations in Bermuda.

The aim is to effectively plan for Bermuda’s human resource needs today and in the future in collaboration with industry in the true spirit of Workforce Development.

We recognize however that we cannot wait until the Plan has been completed and so we are continuing to service the needs of Bermudians by providing tactical programmes that are aligned with reducing the reliance on overseas labour in areas where we have the ability to train or retrain available resources.

Therefore the public can expect that we will soon allocate $300,000 to the Retraining Scholarship Fund with the Bermuda College with a view to providing eligible candidates funding to pursue nursing and teaching certifications. 

This will supplement the Accounting certification programme that is already in channel at the Bermuda College. 

Also, the Department will soon enter into an agreement with Meat Ipswich, U.K. to provide an overseas accelerated accredited training opportunity for four Bermudians to pursue a career as a butcher and to achieve a butcher certification.  

A sum of $80,465 has been allocated for this initiative. Training for this profession is currently not available in Bermuda. Upon completion of this program, these individuals will enter the local workforce as Apprentices. 

The proposed butcher programme is specifically designed to meet the needs of local industry, and it is expected that the four participants will attend training for up to twelve weeks depending on the location and particular learning institution. 

On completion of the coursework, participants will be tested to assess their proficiency and competence. They are expected to achieve passing grades on their tests to obtain an industry recognized certification that will attest to their competence in this profession. 

This certification, the Food and Drink Qualifications Award, comparative to a level II City and Guilds qualification, is the same qualification held by the majority of non-Bermudian butchers currently working in Bermuda.

The main objective is to minimize the issuance of work permits, and to create opportunities for Bermudians to gain competence and proficiency in a sustainable occupation.

The Department will also soon enter into an agreement with NEIT to provide an overseas accredited training opportunity for six Bermudians seeking to become Automotive Collision Repair professionals. 

A total of $201,190 has been set aside for this programme. This level of training is also currently not available in Bermuda.  

The proposed training will assist with promoting a sustainable workforce and ensuring future job opportunities for six Bermudians in this profession. As part of the programme and on completion of the course work, participants will be assessed and tested to prove their proficiency and competence prior to returning to Bermuda.

Again, they are expected to obtain an internationally recognized certification that will allow them to compete for opportunities on a level playing field.

Although there has not been a significant change in the number of work permit issuances for professional Automotive Collision Repair journeypersons, it is clear that requests for renewals are consistent.  Additionally, the industry is concerned that the Bermudians currently working in this field are nearing retirement and succession planning either does not exist or there are very limited numbers to fill the eventual void.

The main objective is to minimize the requests for the issuance of work permits and to realize sustainability with well trained Bermudian professionals. 

I am pleased to report that the Ministry is also actively working with our cruise ship partners to establish a local employment office liaison relationship with a view to securing employment opportunities across all professions with those cruise companies that service Bermuda. 

To this end, last week I met personally with the principals of one of our cruise partners to firm up such a programme that I expect will be rolled out in the coming months.

It is anticipated that this programme will yield employment opportunities for Bermudians who are skilled in any number of areas, both technical and professional.  Other programmes for other segments of unemployed persons such as the skilled tradesman who may need to be retrained or the qualified professional who needs new skills to become marketable in a changing environment are also in train.

For instance, I referenced earlier the Retraining Scholarship Fund with the Bermuda College – this remains active and plans are underway to add the nursing and teaching certifications to the programmes eligible for funding support.

Ladies and gentlemen, we understand that it is critical that we provide genuine opportunities for our next generation of Bermudians, whether they are embarking on their studies or about to enter into the workforce.

We recognise that it is vital that our students are exposed to various work environments which stimulate their career interests, and we are pleased that we are able to do so with our Summer Employment Programme.

In that regard, I am pleased to note that this year we are increasing the number of Bermudian participants in this programme from 100 to 150, as we recognize that they will need more opportunities for work this summer. So, be assured, this Government remains heavily vested in our young people and that is demonstrated by our commitment and support of the Summer Employment Programme.

Finally, regarding Immigration, the public can expect that legislation will be tabled shortly to increase the cost of some work permit categories, decrease others and to set fees for new categories. These modest increases will assist in replacing revenue lost as a result of the elimination of Term Limits where each application generated a fee of $148.

The loss of the term limit revenue however pales when compared to the opportunity costs generated as a result of the elimination of the policy. In this regard, the strengthened regulatory enhancements, as promised will be available by March 15, 2013. This declaration will be signed up front; and issued to all current work permit holders, regardless of when their work permit expires.

It is anticipated that by April 30, 2013, all employers will be required to return signed declarations; reconciled against a full listing of all current work permit holders employed within their organization. Each declaration will be incorporated into each work permit holder’s immigration file.

A signed declaration must also be submitted for spouses who were previously granted a conditional extension to term limits; the declaration must also be submitted by his/her employer.

Additionally, for new (initial/first time to Bermuda) work permit holders, a signed declaration must be included with the work permit application. If the declaration is missing or not signed, the work permit application will be deemed incomplete and may be returned to the employer.

That concludes my overview of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ budget initiatives, and it’s against this backdrop that I am happy to field any budget related queries you may have.

Thank you.