Successful candidates of government’s EC$3 million Cruise Ship Employment Initiative are worried that funding will not be made available soon enough to allow them to secure a job with a cruise ship in Miami.
Reports reaching St. Lucia News Online (SNO) indicates that a few successful candidates, who have applied for loans over a month ago, have not received any response from the bank.
This is despite the fact that a group of successful candidates are required to get a United States visa from Barbados and travel to Miami, Florida, before November 29, to commence working.
One of the successful applicants told SNO: “We are yet to have anything ready… looks like if this goes on like this, all of us will miss our date and forfeit our employment.”
The candidate, who requested anonymity, said she completed the course during the end of August and was referred to the bank to get a loan. Over 100 persons graduated with her. However, until now the bank has not been able to provide her with the loan.
She told SNO that she paid for her tuition and medical examinations, but was depending on the loan to cover her travel expenses. The successful candidate said she was told by a friend, who is currently employed with the same cruise ship, that the loans usually take a long period to process.
She was also told that it has the possibility of affecting her travel arrangements, especially in getting a reasonable flight to Miami. She was therefore advised to try and get a personal loan instead.
The successful candidate also told SNO that there are many persons in her batch, who don’t have money to even start processing their medical certificates. They are however hopeful that they will make it in time to get their US visas and be able to reach Miami to secure their spot on the cruise line.
Other persons have also come forward to say that they too have not received any response from the bank and are worried as to whether they too will get the loans in time to complete all the requirements necessary to travel.
However, an official of the St. Lucia Development Bank (SLDB) told SNO that while the students may be anxious about acquiring loans, it has to pass through a system. The banker emphasised that certain criteria must be met before the bank can provide that loan.
The SLDB official believes there is enough time for persons to acquire the loan. She said that students may take between four to five days to acquire a US visa in Barbados and after that they can start booking their flights to Miami, reiterating that the timeline is until November 29.
Another SLDB official explained the process in which these loans are distributed . The official said persons are first trained by the Spring Board Training and Development Centre.
Once successful, the candidates are usually referred to the SLDB where they apply for the loans. The bank would usually begin processing the loan right away.
The candidates can access up to EC$5,915, but this depends on how much they want to be loaned. It most times include monies for: tuition, a trip to Barbados and Miami, medical reports, a capitalized interest and bank fees.
However, the successful candidates are adamant that the time frame to acquire the funds is limited. The successful candidates said because they have been given a maximum of six weeks to confirm with the employers in Miami that they will take up the job offer, it makes it even more difficult.
Candidates are worried that their loans may not be granted fast enough, since they are not the only ones on the long list of people who have completed the training and have applied for loans.
Members of Parliament on Tuesday, August 12, approved funding for the cruise sector training and employment initiative. The loan was secured from the National Insurance Corporation (NIC), which is being administered by the SLDB.
Last year, 229 Saint Lucians were offered jobs in the cruise ship sector. This year, over 260 trained and qualified young people gained employment.