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Retraining for reopening - an opportunity missed?

The Panel 07 Dec, 2021 Follow News

Retraining for reopening - an opportunity missed?

By Staff writer


The most recent edition of 'The Panel' on Caymanian Times explored in-depth the longstanding and seemingly intractable issue of balancing jobs for Caymanians with the demands of the private sector, especially the tourism industry, and government revenues from work permits.

The issue was tackled in a spirited and informed debate on The Panel programme, in which host and Caymanian Times publisher Ralph Lewis was joined by regular panellist Roy Bodden and guest Michael Myles.

A passionate advocate for jobs and career progression for Caymanians across all sectors, Mr Myles (an educator and trainer) is the Director of Inspire Cayman Training, an internationally accredited training organisation he established to address skills shortages and offer avenues of professional development for citizens.

Mr Myles feels an opportunity was missed to have an effective retraining and re-tooling programme during the slowdown alongside the stipend offer for persons forced out-of-work by the pandemic.

Referring to the outcome of a government-commissioned study into post-pandemic employment and career paths for Caymanians, he cited some examples of missed opportunities.

“We need to help our people so when our country opens back up, we now have not just water sports operators, but we now have PADI instructors where small businessmen who were running boats can now offer diving on their boats.”

Another is the construction industry where he set about dispelling views that Caymanians aren’t keen to work in that industry.

In fact, Mr Myles said persons who have gone through his programme have found work and career paths in that industry which largely relies on overseas workers.

Instead, he said that rather than pursuing that, more emphasis was placed on the stipends which he feels that while necessary, might have been counter-productive in some respects.

The Inspire Cayman director is of the view that this might have a disincentive to pursuing training by some recipients.

“Giving away stuff is easy. It’s a win when you can give $1,500 to somebody you shut them down, you shut them up and you move them along and they are good to go. But what you’ve done is paralyse these people that they are not living, they are surviving.”

He also felt that personal financial management is a vital component of that equation.

Panellist Dr Roy Bodden also had reservations about the failure to strike the balance between the demands of industry, prioritising work for Caymanian and the considerable revenue the government derives from work permits.

He reiterated a view he has voiced on previous editions of The Panel that opportunities were missed during the past year to embark on a comprehensive retaining and upskilling scheme.

"I am disappointed because I thought that during what I call the interregnum - the time that we were locked down - the authorities both in the public sector and the private sector would have taken advantage to prepare people for the hospitality industry whenever we open up so that we would not have been in this quandary now, where we had to again get every single work permit for every position."

He reinforced his point by stating: “I understand that we may not have enough Caymanians to fill every position, but there is no reason to say that we couldn't have Caymanians filling at least a couple of 100 of those positions.”

On the issue of training and development, host Ralph Lewis (who is a former bank manager) looked at the issue from the perspective of in-depth and ongoing training and professional development.

It's his view that it's in the interest of both the employee's career progression and business success.

“When you talk about training staff to do jobs from your local workforce, it doesn't happen in two weeks or one month. It takes time because if I'm running a business, I need experienced people at my counters when I open my five-star hotel and welcome my guests paying $1,000 a night.”

It was also felt that the government’s employment policy via its Workforce Opportunities & Residency Cayman (WORC) agency might need a rethink.

“The role is not for government to be an HR company,” Mr Lewis stated. “That's not the role. You don't tell a company who to hire. You can tell them but they don't have to hire. The company has to make a choice to hire someone that's going to work with the best interest of their bottom dollar."

At the same time, it was also felt that Caymanians should be given preference for certain roles, a point driven home by Michael Myles based on his observations in other Caribbean countries.

However, he noted that what sets those countries apart from Cayman is their commitment to training.

According to Mr Myles, this has wide ripple effects ranging from career and professional development in the workplace, to enabling Caymanians to be prominent in the economic mainstream rather than being restricted to what he described as "dead-end" entry-level jobs.

Along those lines, panellist Roy Bodden voiced an abiding concern.

“What about those instances where there is discrimination?" he wondered.

"I think in some institutions in the hospitality industry - not all - there's a blatant attempt not to have Caymanians in obvious positions; front office and all these kinds of things, because the proprietors and the senior managers and administration want to keep up with a certain image.”

(Listen back to most recent and previous editions of The Panel on Caymanian Times website, Facebook and YouTube pages)

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