Jobs in the hospitality sector abroad no longer come easily for Barbadians, nor is the situation any better for those seeking employment in other sectors overseas.
Minister of Labour Senator Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo today disclosed that Government was having a hard time sourcing employment for Barbadians who wish to work abroad.
In an address at a breakfast meeting to discuss the Draft National Human Resource Development (HRD) Policy, Dr Byer-Suckoo blamed the global economic meltdown of 2008 as well as increasing competition from developing nations and from within the major markets.
She referred to both Canada and the United States which she said were looking internally for hospitality workers, and which have ended preferential arrangements for exchange of workers.
The minister said the changes were triggered by the requirement to comply with international standards and a rise in global unemployment.
“This is due to international standards, but it is also due to economics . . . that have caused people to ensure that they do what they have to do internally to maintain employment; and so home drums beating first. They have ensured that they have made some changes.
“That is what we are seeing in Canada as pertains to us where they have implemented measures to ensure that Canadians would get the jobs before foreigners,” the minister said.
Dr Byer-Suckoo also pointed to the United Kingdom where she said Barbadians could no longer go “in droves like they did before” to seek employment in the transport sector.
London Transport (now Transport of London) began recruiting workers from the Caribbean in the 1950s and with Barbados suffering from a job shortage, London Transport (LT), at the invitation of the Government here, began recruiting directly from Barbados in 1956.
“In February, a recruitment official and a senior medical officer visited Barbados, and recruited 50 men conductors, 20 women conductors and 70 station men. They also made arrangements for the local Commissioner of Labour to continue recruitment on our behalf on the basis of LT Standards and a further 88 conductors and 20 station women have subsequently arrived in this country,” Transport of London’s Corporate Archives Research Guide quoted the 1956 Recruitment and Training Annual Report as saying.
However, formal recruitment in the Caribbean ended in the 1970s.
Even highly trained professionals like policemen, nurses and teachers are finding it difficult to secure employment abroad, the minister told this morning’s gathering.
“Since 2008 the world has seen an increase in unemployment. Now some don’t like it when we talk about 2008; they say ‘well, hey, wake up; 2008 was a long time ago’ but the truth is the world has changed a lot and economies great and small are still trying to recover from the effects of 2008,” she said.
It was against this background, she said, that the policy was being designed to create a cadre of globally competitive citizens “through an efficient, well-coordinated, effective, knowledgeable-led, flexible and demand-driven” human resource development system.
She stressed that a lot of emphasis was being placed on certification of skills and qualifications that meet industry demands.
“It speaks to a labour market information system that would then inform job seekers, it would inform trainers, it would inform educators. Career counselling is also an important part of that link. We have been able to achieve success on the knowledge management system,” Dr Byer-Suckoo said.
Giving an overview of policy, HRD specialist in the Barbados Human Resource Development Project Unit Orville Lynch said while the country was assessed internationally on competitiveness, innovativeness and the ease of doing business, adequate workforce competencies were needed to drive productivity, creating added value for the economy.
Additionally, he said, science technology engineering and mathematics must become a signal feature of the country’s educational system.
“It seems like only certain people in Barbados can do chemistry, physics and biology. If we want to have strong engineering skills going forward and to be innovative our educational system has to be reoriented. Otherwise we are going to continue to be what you call primary producers.
“Productivity only comes through people. It does not come through machines. You buy machines to improve the processes. Therefore workforce competencies sit at the base of it,” Lynch said.
The human resource official also stressed the need for policies that are relevant to the needs of the workforce.