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Tackling brain drain


Every employer with a vacant position for more than three months understands the impact of the massive brain drain that the Caribbean islands are experiencing. It‚s true that many Third World companies cannot compete with the salaries and benefits that other countries offer, but not all hope is lost. {{more}}

People who migrate to other countries do so for better education, better health care, and higher compensation. Larger countries like the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom that are the primary recipients of Caribbean nationals also offer immigrants the opportunity to reinvent themselves and achieve anything they set their minds to.

How does the Caribbean compete?

Youth Education. Young people are easily dazzling by the bright lights and promise of opportunity in the larger countries. It gives them a chance to hope and to improve their lives, especially since young people suffer from the highest level of unemployment in the Caribbean. Governments and the private sector need to begin to pour resources into providing more educational and employment opportunities for young people. If they are to stay home and help develop their countries they will need a reason to do so. If they are hampered by concerns of finding a daily meal they will jump at the first chance to leave.

Once young people are hired, they must be engaged and given continuous chances to improve themselves. Training dollars should not be reserved only for senior-level officials, but should be invested heavily in the next generation. It is they who must learn to compete globally. Young workers also feel that their input is not valid. The thought of advancing seems unrealistic to them because there are no structured programs to groom the next generation.

The government needs to get involved and offer more attractive salaries to teachers. The children are our most precious resources and each student must have access to a competent teacher who knows how to be enthusiastic and to dream big. A teacher who can barely make ends meet on his salary will find it difficult to instill a sense of pride in his country.

Company Consortiums. Companies need to get creative in their approach to retaining qualified applicants and attracting emigrants back to the region. People who leave are accustomed to a certain level of intellectual stimulation through the arts, networking, or career support. A return to the Caribbean can leave them feeling isolated. If companies banded together to provide this support, it will make returning home a bit more attractive and it will also be a boon to local people.

Sabbaticals for expatriates. Many Caribbean expatriates who live in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. might be open the idea of returning home for a year or two to offer their expertise. There are also expatriates who have returned home to retire but would love to stay active in their fields. Although it‚s only a short-term solution, it‚s one worth exploring.

Companies have to think out of the box to solve these problems. For too long companies have been trying on their own, but with little or no success. The brain drain will never stop as long as there are other places offering higher salaries and better benefits. The Caribbean islands can learn to cope and come up with creative solutions.