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Tackling Brain Drain


As Carnival wraps up, SVG is filled with talented Vincentians who are experts in their fields and are making major contributions, but unfortunately, SVG is not the beneficiary of all this exceptional talent.{{more}}

Every employer with a vacant position for more than 3 months understands the impact of the massive brain drain that the Caribbean islands are experiencing. It’s a fact that many third-world companies cannot compete with the salaries and benefits that foreign countries offer, but all hope is not lost.

People who migrate to other countries do so to further their own education or that of their children, gain access to a better healthcare system and to receive higher compensation. The larger countries like the U.S., 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 mind to.

How does the Caribbean compete?

Youth Education. Young people are easily dazzled by the bright lights and promise of opportunity in the larger countries. It gives them a chance to hope to improve their lives, as this segment of the population suffers from the highest level of unemployment. Government and the private sector need to begin to pour resources into providing more educational and employment opportunities for the young people. If they are to stay and help develop their country, they will need a reason, but if they are hampered by concerns of finding a daily meal, they will jump at the first available chance to leave. Once young people are hired, they must be engaged and given continuous chances to improve themselves. Training dollars should not just be reserved for senior-level officials, but should be heavily invested into the next generation, as they must learn how to compete globally. Young workers also feel that their input is not valid and the thought of advancing seems unrealistic as there are no structured grooming programs to usher in the next generation.

The government needs to get involved and offer more attractive salaries to teachers. Children are our most precious resource, and each student must have access to competent teachers who themselves know how to be enthusiastic and are big dreamers. Teachers who can barely make ends meet on their salaries will find it difficult to instill a sense of pride in their country.

Company Consortium Companies need to get creative in their approach to attracting and retaining qualified applicants 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 band together to provide this support, it will make returning home a bit more attractive, and it will also provide locals who never left a chance to interact on a different level.

Expatriates’ Sabbaticals

There are many expatriates currently residing in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. who would be open to the idea of returning home for a year or two to offer their expertise. There are also expatriates who have returned home to retire and would love to stay active in their field. Although it’s only a short-term solution, it’s one worth exploring. Companies have to think outside of the box in addressing these concerns. For too long companies have been trying on their own with little or no success.

St Vincent just does not have the capacity to create an environment that can foster the growth of its many talented people. The brain drain will never stop as long as there are other places offering higher salaries and better benefits, but Caribbean islands can learn to cope and come up with creative solutions.

Karen Hinds is “The Workplace Success Expert.” For a FREE SPECIAL REPORT on Avoiding Career Killers in the Workplace, send an email to [email protected]
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