The Bahamas will not thrive with its current jobs skills gap and the issue must be “attacked” at all levels, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper charged.
He was referring to a recently released survey conducted by the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI), which found that two-thirds of all employers say that the people they interview for jobs can’t read and count at a competent level.
“We need to actively identify areas of our economy where these skills are lacking and make a focused effort to close these gaps,” Cooper told the National Progressive Institute earlier this week.
“We should also expand our National Training Agency and launch mandatory life and workforce preparation classes in our schools, particularly for students who don’t plan to immediately pursue a tertiary education.”
Fifty-five percent of the 155 respondents of the survey – which span the real estate, energy and electricity, education, food services, wholesale and retail, marketing and communications and construction industries – also feel that the country’s workforce training initiatives are not successful.
“Under-qualification and a lack of experience are also major issues. Let me be very clear, this is a Bahamas problem, not an FNM or a PLP problem. Our country will not thrive at this rate and this isn’t something that any one person or initiative can address,” Cooper said.
“This must be attacked and I use that word intentionally, at all levels. Firstly – and this is hard for people to hear and often politically unpopular to say – the government is not responsible for teaching your children good habits. The government can provide an environment for our children to learn to read, learn to count, learn to work together with others. But it is the responsibility of family to teach children good personal habits that they carry with them throughout life.”
Cooper charged that where the home has fallen down, the government must step up to ensure that Bahamians have the opportunity to learn new skills and advance themselves.
“Not only do we need to deepen investment in our secondary and primary schools, but we need to do the same and just as quickly in our tertiary institutions. We need to desperately reconsider apprenticeship programs for skills transfer and job programs,” he said.