• The following Letter to the Editor was submitted to Bermuda Real for publication in response to the Op-Ed by the Shadow Minister of Education, Cole Simons, MP – One Bermuda Alliance…
Cole Simons, Shadow Minister of Education

As I skimmed through your above article (yes, skimmed because it reports on the same political rhetoric of years past) none of the information is new except that we are now in the middle of COVID-19.  We should not let COVID-19 be an excuse for raising the ire of unemployment, gang violence, disappointed teens, disengaged young people and frustrated adults.  These issues have been here for many years as the system (both political parties included) keeps telling us that we are NOT in a recession that the reason for unemployment is that work permit people are taking jobs. There are systemic problems; blaming is not the answer.

According to your article, Shadow Minister Cole Simons asked: “What can we do?” My response to Mr Simons is:

Sir, you give us Bermuda College and another tool being Apprenticeships/Traineeships as alternatives for our young people.  I think I can encapsulate the “vision” of these tools as leading a horse to water and expecting them to drink.  The water has been there all along but if we haven’t been taught how to look for water or what water looks like, we won’t be able to drink if we don’t recognize it as nourishment.

We (adults) know these tools are here BUT expectations and grooming our young people for the future began at the beginning of life.  There was no mention of education reform (yet again), individual, focused or independent learning.

The education system has been puppeted by each Government administration that has taken the helm but not one has made a dent into ensuring that OUR children can leave the education system with real life tools beyond how to write a resume or interview; what about real life skills, such as personal finance, budgeting, how to buy a house, importance about being a good tenant when you rent, banking, investing, parenting.  These shouldn’t be graded learning modules where they are under pressure to perform, it should be ongoing, experiential teachings throughout their school experience, but we have frustrated teachers, frustrated administrators, frustrated parents who expect our children to be ‘trained’ when they finish school;  learning is a lifelong endeavour.

Teaching or training starts at home.  The fundamentals continue and should be supported; where there are shortfalls, these shortfalls are exceptions, not the rule.  This has absolutely nothing to do with Cambridge system or any other educational curriculum; teach the students how to learn, how to be independent thinkers, how to ask questions, how to study when there are distractions that they cannot control, give them tools and each political party should stop blaming each other and the system(s) that they each have created or contributed to.  The Bermuda College is working to help OUR young people to continue their education during this crisis, they do not need to be burdened with political posturing.

Respectfully, what about the trades?  I understand that there is a movement to introduce, create, re-create the trade school. No mention of those initiatives in this article.

What about entrepreneurship?  The BEDC has a summer program for our young people.  Have the you asked how well that program has been subscribed or spoken to the students?

If you need a question answered, ask the right people. Yes “the workforce development team has its challenges” is true as with other Government Departments, “…they should have regular meetings with all stakeholders at the table” what makes you think that they don’t?  We know that the systems hardly change from party to party, I’m sure that it’s business as usual.

What raised my eyebrow was the statement   “…The Immigration Department should have access to Workforce Development’s live data…” Employers are required to use the Job Board system as part of their recruitment process to ensure that all Bermudians are given fair opportunity for employment.  The work permit process occurs after all Bermudians have responded.  No process is perfect BUT there is a psychology about hiring that no process, Government or otherwise, can remedy except to engage  systems such as the Job Board to ensure that there is a model approach to address a problem.

It is a tall order to expect perfection in this economic climate but getting down to basics is where we should start.  This is our new beginning. Bermudian small businesses are reaching out and providing experiences for locals who have to have staycations.  Help them create “Bermuda Rates”, making their activities economical so that residents can afford to enjoy having a staycation; we do appreciate special marketing but the price has to be affordable.

 Increased business may allow for these businesses to expand for the summer, or at least, build employment opportunities for the young people who may or may not be planning on attending college or adults who now find themselves unemployed; imagine being able to run their business in both the east and in the west.

Bermuda is in a new space, with the global impact of COVID-19.  Now is not the time for political posturing.  Not in this climate.  Let politics take a back seat and focus on fixing things that are actually broken. Our people need help; time would be better served by helping those who want to provide for their families or carve a place in this community for themselves.  The world is at ground zero. This is the perfect time to change how we do things, as a people and as a Government. Let’s build a new reputation on doing things different.  The possibilities can be endless and the real winner will be the people.

Young people are watching too.

Concerned but optimistic.