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Chronically underemployed engineers could benefit from CWC

Engineers in The Bahamas are suffering from chronic underemployment, but a successful Cable&Wireless Communications'(CWC)bid for a 51 percent stake in BTC could reap benefits for engineers.

In an interview yesterday, Robert Reece, president of the Bahamas Society of Engineers, said that the degree of benefit that would come depends on the philosophical approach of the decision makers from the outset.

“It is related to the thought in the minds of the individuals that are creating the architecture for how this work will get completed, from a management standpoint all the way to the actual specific heavy lifting on the engineering side,”said Reece.

Reece was responding to a statement from David Shaw made to Guardian Business yesterday,”… I firmly believe that part of the mix has to be investing in cutting edge engineers who can shape the future path for telecoms …”Shaw’s statement was in response to questions Guardian Business posed on how CWC would try to affect corporate culture at BTC to prepare for liberalization, if successful in its ownership bid.

Reece welcomed the statement from CWC, saying that the recognition of the need for engineering expertise was a positive statement for the company and the nation.

“When it comes to Cable and Wireless, and 3G technology, there’s absolutely no doubt that that’s a fast moving area of technology and expertise,”Reece said.”The thing that the public and the government is aware of is that there is a large quantity of amazing Bahamian engineering talent that is available to help whether it’s in Cable&Wireless or other industries.”

The society president’s statement comes at a time when he said a number of engineers were out of work, and many more were performing far beneath their appropriate level of responsibility or on tasks often outside of the engineering field altogether. He referred to the situation as”chronic underemployment of engineers.”

“The pie is only so big, and the vast majority of those dollars go to foreign engineers,”Reece said.

To combat the problem, Reece said it is critical to integrate engineers into the development of the country, and that when projects like the proposed CWC come along companies need to realize that expertise, whether foreign or Bahamian, needs to provide value.

“I think the default position has been and should be to utilize Bahamian talent first, and I think that sometimes that gets misconstrued to represent some form of nationalism at the sacrifice of value,”said Reece.”But it’s actually the most valuable way to get done what needs to get done.”

According to Reece, Bahamian engineers that can bring local expertise, knowledge of CWC as a corporation, and technical and engineering expertise will be the most efficient option for the company to meet its engineering needs.

Reece used the Nassau Airport Development Company(NAD) to illustrate his case, saying that Bahamian engineers were planned into the project from the outset. As a result local engineers were involved in management, as NAD employees, and through independent engineering firms outside of NAD. In the case of NAD, he said Bahamians were used throughout with foreign engineers used to supplement any deficiencies in the local market.

Reece said that often with projects the news is the total dollar amount set aside for Bahamians, but for engineers there needed to be a closer look at how they will factor into such projects.

“What we don’t typically hear is the role, whether it’s a dollar role(a dollar set aside for engineering)or a functional role(management, engineering itself, etc.)specific to engineers,”Reece said.”I think we as a country must be careful of that.”

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