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Study: Job seekers inadequately trained

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Unemployment in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is likely to increase from its current rate of 20 per cent because the majority of job seekers are inadequately trained.{{more}}

According to findings of a recent labour market study, 66 per cent of the new jobs created in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) are of a high skill nature, and this trend is expected to increase. However, less than 5 per cent of job seekers possess the skills or training to fill such vacancies.

The study, which was conducted by Jamaican consultancy firm Trevor Hamilton & Associates, was reviewed and presented to stakeholders at a meeting that took place on Tuesday, September 8. The review highlighted the current state of the local labour market, gave a forecast and put forward required imperatives to facilitate improvement.

Lead Consultant Trevor Hamilton issued a dire warning to the Government: “If you are not going to train them, Vincentians are going to be spectators in their own growth!” Hamilton explained that at present, 4 out of every 10 skilled jobs created go to foreigners because employers cannot find sufficiently qualified locals.

The study showed that the top three imported occupations in SVG are in the areas of project management, engineering and professionally trained chefs.

The lead consultant was keen to point out although there is an increase in persons furthering their academic education; there is a significant lack of high-skill trained individuals. “There is a difference between training and education.”

Hamilton pointed out that formal education only indicates intelligence and propensity to learn, but does not necessarily tell of an individual’s ability to practically apply what has been learnt or to problem solve.

Additionally, the study revealed that for every 10 work permits issued, 7 of them are granted to non-CARICOM nationals. “So much for CSME,” Hamilton mused. With foreign direct investment (FDI) at 54 per cent of capital formation, he predicted that this figure would increase as the public sector investment programme contracts.

More encouragingly, the study indicates that SVG has a high propensity to create employment. This is attributed to factors such as a low birth rate (less than 1 per cent), growth of FDI, and the contribution of all strategic sectors to the economy.

In his presentation, Hamilton recommended several imperatives that the Government should adopt to improve the labour market and stave off the predicted rise in unemployment.

These include more re-training of locals; developing a major national skills training programme; rationalizing a policy for recruitment of foreign skills (with main focus being on the Diaspora and CARICOM nations), and acceleration of the completion of the international airport. Hamilton also suggested creating a policy for stimulating private-public partnerships in infrastructure and developing the Labour Market Information System.

The study further indicated that there is a need for more investment in the private sector because the Government has a modest and dwindling propensity for job creation. “The economy must move into a new era!” Hamilton asserted.

He also suggested that more emphasis be placed on SVG’s creative industry because it can boost knowledge of and investment in a country more quickly and effectively than other industries. “The creative industry is significant. You should put as much as you can into it… Look at what Bob Marley and Usain Bolt have done for Jamaica.”

Invest SVG (formerly National Investment and Promotions Inc) hosted the review. Executive Director Cleo Huggins also gave brief introductory remarks.

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