The following OpEd was released on Friday, November 19, 2021 by One Bermuda Alliance Approved Candidate Victoria Cunningham on Labour & Immigration…
The recent Throne Speech laid out a number of Government initiatives and ideas to move Bermuda beyond the pandemic. While it needs to be said that we should be working together to protect our economy and get Bermudians back to work, the report gave little detail to how these would work in our current and future economic environment.
The decline in jobs will continue unless there is a clear and productive plan in place to train our Bermudian workforce but also continue to attract skilled non-Bermudians who are willing and able to carry out that training. The One Bermuda Alliance believes the government should “make life easier” for the industry groups that are keeping the economy afloat.
By specifying required skill sets for each work permit category, we should be able to set up a training path either through the Department of Workforce Development or the Bermuda College. However, work permit holders also provide key training opportunities to Bermudians and should not be considered second class citizens in the country where they are contributing their taxes and hard-earned dollars in all aspects of our economy. As International Business has now become the largest employer on the island (over 13 percent of all jobs held according to the September 2020 Employment Survey), we need to be addressing ways to ensure they continue to invest in our people and our island.
The digitised immigration application process is definitely a good idea to streamline the arduous immigration process (albeit somewhat late), but we need to look at other ways to cut the red tape and incentivize these companies to continue spending in Bermuda and on Bermudians.
The economy shed 1,900 jobs in 2020 with massive job losses seen in the retail and tourism sectors. While the pandemic is obviously partly to blame, this is not a recent trend. We need to be looking at where these Bermudians can re-locate their skill sets. Are we truly looking at the numbers from the most recent employment brief when educating our young people about careers or assisting our out-of-work brothers and sisters? Of the 111 occupation categories assigned in the 2020 Employment Survey, over a quarter have more than 50% of the jobs held by non-Bermudians.
That tells me that there are opportunities in these job categories if we can properly train and educate ourselves. These job categories include waiters, accountants, nurses, landscapers, beauticians and autobody workers. While it could be argued that some of these require further education, with the hundreds of thousands of dollars of government and private scholarships available annually, this shouldn’t be seen as a hinderance to our youth.
The PLP Government recently highlighted the work done by the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). This is a key Department that supports training programmes and the Government’s re-employment strategy. However, little over 10% of the 750 people who took part in the recent DWD training programmes were employed full time as a result. I would ask, how many of those 80 people are still employed in those positions? The same goes for the 757 unemployed Bermudians who gained employment through the DWD Bermuda Job Board in the last 12 months – what industry groups were these in and are those employers willing to offer additional opportunities?
This Government is failing our youth while they are still in school by providing inadequate soft skills experience, they are failing our unemployed by not offering relevant training and development opportunities, and, they are failing Bermuda, by not bringing forward realistic and relevant ideas to stimulate our economy.
We need to ask ourselves, are we going to be paying for Bezos-Burt to enter the Space Race with the billions we don’t have, or can we bring the PLP back down to earth to provide Bermuda and Bermudians with an economy and the job prospects we deserve?