Skills gap in The Bahamas a ‘serious concern’
Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said yesterday that the government is “extremely concerned” about the number of skilled Bahamians who are able to take advantage of career opportunities in the country.
A recent World Trade Organization (WTO) Impact Assessment by global forecasting and quantitative analysis firm Oxford Economics found that Bahamian workers lack the necessary skills and education for firms to adequately perform in a global economy which contributes to the high unemployment in comparison with other countries in the region.
“It is a very serious issue,” Foulkes said in the Senate during debate on the amendments to the Immigration Act.
“It’s something that’s been brewing for a very long time. It just didn’t happen overnight.
“But we do have a serious skills gap in The Bahamas.”
Foulkes said that while the Oxford Economics report was the most recent example, other international groups have made mention of the issue in the past.
He said a 2012 report by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) found that a majority of employers in the country cited the lack of specific skills, soft skills and numeracy and literacy skills, as their main difficulties in recruiting staff.
The lack of skills were also cited as primary reasons for dismissals.
“Overall, the analysis tells that more integration is needed between the private sector labor demand and the provision of training in the country,” he said.
“The report reinforces that investing successfully in labor force skills development can be a main driver of economic and social growth, and will demonstrate that upgradable technical and soft skills is key for increasing productivity and competitiveness, adapting to the new technologies and creating stable work opportunities for Bahamian workers.”
He added, “The government of The Bahamas is extremely concerned about the lack of skilled Bahamians to take advantage of certain jobs in The Bahamas.
“We have, in conjunction with the private sector and organized labor with the trade unions recognized that a significant gap exists between the current and future labor needs in The Bahamas and the skills to meet those needs by the workforce.
“Despite past efforts to ameliorate this need, there persists a regular struggle by Bahamian employers to find sufficient local staff with the necessary technical and soft skills. Conversely, Bahamians are challenged to obtain the requisite skills training due to the lack of tuition opportunities and funding.
“In certain industries this is noted to create an uneven dependence on foreign talent and skills.
“This creates tension between labor and immigration policies and functional practices necessary for the local industries to thrive, and this is a particular problem in our second city of Grand Bahama. The longstanding negative impact of this disparity has contributed to critically limited growth of certain private sector areas, and subsequently minimal economic development and direct economic benefits for the Bahamian workers.”
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish