Sometimes I miscalculate when taking a shortcut and hit the school zones at the end of the school day. Every time this happens to me, it is like witnessing an action movie as hundreds of students hustle and bustle about, some finding rides with parents, some walking, and others heading to bus stops.
I have been told more than 6000 students complete high school each year. Some enter our University of The Bahamas and then there are the lucky few who can go abroad for higher learning. However, many are left behind to seek employment.
As has been the case throughout our nation’s history, many young persons attempt to capitalize on tourism, our main industry, by seeking employment at hotels. Then, there are the favored few with appropriate connections who seek employment with the government. Both institutions can only take so many persons. The public service is already bloated. Unless your family has those connections to help open doors, it’s often difficult to get a solid start on one’s career path.
The local member of Parliament is besieged by his constituents to help in finding jobs. To add to this dilemma, so many of these students are ill prepared to find meaningful work and must settle for what work they can find.
Ever so often, when we hear of a major company laying off employees, the war cry starts. We often ask why we have so many foreigners and why they are here taking jobs Bahamians can do. Recently, John Pinder, the director of labor, lamented that the foreign worker was eclipsing the Bahamian in the workplace. To break it down, the foreign construction worker has a job while Joe Public is sitting on the blocks twiddling his thumbs.
This is true when you see all of these Chinese and Hispanic workers on the job, but in the case of the Chinese — by the way I have no horse in this race per say – we all know that there is always a catch. When the Chinese provided funds to build Baha Mar, one of the conditions was that they bring in their families and comrades to assist, perhaps at a lower rate when compared to our highly skilled Bahamians.
So, like the folks say, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” Don’t blame the Chinese workers, blame the politicians who signed the dotted line in the first place. Perhaps it’s the best deal they could have agreed on, or perhaps they are inept negotiators.
These blue-collar jobs get all the attention, but the more highly paid jobs either in finance or the hotel business are what really get the gall of Bahamian professionals. When you see these companies advertise for a top job to be filled, you can rest assured that in some cases they are only advertising to suit the Department of Labor so they can bring in an expatriate.
Throughout our history, the commercial and offshore banks were famous for seeking work permits by embellishing the qualifications they were looking for. It’s a scam these companies have been running for years and continue to run. In most cases, they already have someone lined for the job just waiting patiently to get their hands on the work permit. Even Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder can see through this fraud.
This needs to end. Give Bahamian professionals the jobs they are qualified for instead of continuing to perpetuate these issues. The future of our nation depends on it.
• William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association and a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.