St. Thomas

St. John

St.Croix

THE VIRGIN ISLANDS DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND THE VIRGIN ISLANDS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES SHARE UPDATE ON OPERATIONS

Published: Feb 25, 2022

ST. CROIX- Members of the Committee on Youth, Sports, Parks, and Recreation chaired by Senator Samuel Carrión, convened in a meeting at the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room. Lawmakers received testimony on the status of youth-related initiatives inclusive of out-of-school youth programs, youth apprenticeships, and employment opportunities provided by the Department of Labor. Separately, the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services shared an update on the Division of Children, Youth, and Families Services and the Division of Intervention and Prevention Services.

Gary Molloy, Commissioner of the Department of Labor presented an overview. The mission of the Youth Services Division is to provide programs for the youths that create opportunities for employment, professional skills development, and to earn Industry-standard credentials that can be utilized in the workforce. Molloy noted that some of the academic and career assessments include resume building, financial literacy, job search assistance, paid/unpaid work experience, training opportunities. Additionally, job preparation skills, supportive services, career counseling, Labor market/employment information, and leadership development activities are services offered by VIDOL to young people ages 14-25. Senator Carrión inquired about how the success of the programs is measured. In response, Shenika Sebastian, Director of Youth and Apprenticeship at VIDOL mentioned that per federal guidelines, success is measured by the participants’ performance, reports are submitted quarterly.

Collectively, senators expressed the need for programs that tailors to English learners specifically the population that speaks Spanish, Creole, or French. Molloy stated that the data is unavailable on the percentage of participants who are English Learners. However, computer labs will be opened by appointment. Meanwhile, one-on-one meetings with participants and assigned case managers are still in progress. Senator Carrión urged VIDOL to launch an outreach campaign that shares the programs and services offered to the multi-lingual population in the community with an effort to curtail the high drop-out rate of the school. Furthermore, Senator Carrión offered to assist in the dissemination of the pertinent information. The Apprenticeship Program comprises major components such as business involvement, on-the-job training, related instruction, rewards for skills gained, and earning the national occupational credential. Despite program benefits, Senator Donna A. Frett Gregory stated that there are many local apprentices who are waiting to be placed for employment. She noted that it should become law that companies hire apprentices as part of their requirements to work in the Virgin Islands.

Separately, Kimberly Causey Gomez shared an update Division of Children, Youth, and Families Services (DCFS) and the Division of Intervention and Prevention Services. In the St. Thomas-St. John District there are a total of 50 cases and out of that 33 young people are at risk, 16 are delinquent and one is pins. In the St. Croix District, there are 23 cases. Out of that, 15 youths are delinquent, two are pins, and six are at risk. Causey Gomez further indicated that there are a total of nine residents housed at the Youth Rehabilitation Center (YRC). Thus far, this is a sharp decline compared to 41 youth admissions to YRC in FY 2021. Presently, Causey Gomez stated that there are 25 young people who were referred by DCFS for housing voucher assistance. Moreover, four of them secured housing furnished by DHS, eight applications are in process, two declined assistance, ten postponed assistance, and one was ineligible.

Senators present at the hearing: Samuel Carrión, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Dwayne DeGraff, Franklin D. Johnson, Genevieve R. Whitaker, Carla J. Joseph, Steven D. Payne, Sr., and Alma Francis Heyliger.  ###

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