Bahamian students have been urged by the acting director of labour to ready themselves to fill the country’s skills gaps and reduce employer demand for work permits.
John Pinder, addressing the first Bahamas National Technical College Fair, said: “There are many opportunities in medical technology, engineering, nursing, teaching, welding and a number of other technical skills that we normally have to approve a labour certificate for, which leads to a work permit for non-Bahamians to work in our country.
“If we are going to fill the skills gap we have to encourage our children to follow the protocol in ensuring that they are educated enough that, when these persons advertise positions, they are qualified and have the technical skills to fill the positions.”
The Fair, an event produced by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labour and the Bahamas Union of Teachers, attracted more than 1,000 high school students.
Mr Pinder added that a major challenge existed in finding Bahamians who can speak a foreign language so that they can fill bilingual positions.
“We need to encourage our children to speak more than one language. We live in a society that, for the most part, only speaks English, but we do business with a number of foreign persons, and oftentimes employers receive these labour certificates simply because Bahamians only speak English,” he said.
“When an employer is looking at how they can best take advantage of the bottom line, being their profit, they are trying to get one person to do more than one task. We have to encourage our citizens, our students, that as they study to recognise that they have to be able to multi-task to keep up with the global market that we find ourselves in today.
“No longer do we live in a vacuum where The Bahamas has the opportunity to just employ Bahamians. We had that opportunity in years gone by; to have a job description with one particular task to carry out. Nowadays, in order for us to keep ourselves competitive, we have to be able to multi-task,” Mr Pinder continued.
“This will lead them to, when they finish their studies, come back home and get gainful employment to help to bridge the skills gap that we have, and to also ensure that Bahamians are given an opportunity to perform in their own country to make a living and raise families.”
The Department of Labour has now embarked on an initiative to ensure Bahamians possess the skill sets necessary to qualify for positions when they become available.
“We want to ensure that when we see the criteria for a position, if that skill set is not offered in The Bahamas, we can approach institutions like yourself and our local institutions to put those type of courses on so that Bahamians can qualify for those positions,” Mr Pinder said.
“We believe that it is very important to ensure that, at the end of the day, we don’t end up with a brain drain, where our citizens go to universities abroad and cannot find employment when they return home, [so] they remain and build other countries to ensure they advance.
“We want to ensure that our children are kept on the cutting edge of technology, and the only way to do that is to ensure that our students are given this type of opportunity that we see presented here today.”