#Nassau, September 18, 2018 – Bahamas – In keeping with the government’s commitment to improve the standard of living for Bahamians, Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis officially launched the National Committee for Industry & Skills Development, on Monday, September 17, 2018 at the opening of the National Skills Symposium.
The national committee was established to closely examine the skills gap that presently obstructs economic growth. Administered by the Ministry of Labour, it comprises an effort to address the lack of sufficient skilled Bahamian workers to meet labour demands, now and in the future.
The launch of the National Skills Symposium, applauded by the Prime Minister, took place at the National Training Agency. At the launch was Minister of Labour, Senator the Hon. Dion Foulkes, members of the Cabinet and other government officials, and representatives from the Inter-American Development Bank, the business community, trade unions, and educational institutions.
The Prime Minister said he was also pleased at the cross-section of representatives from Grand Bahama and the Family Islands taking part in the nation-wide initiative.
“Your attendance and active participation reflect your commitment to working collaboratively with government to improve the standard of living and quality of life for all citizens and residents of our beloved Bahamas,” he said.
According to the Prime Minister, the progressive and sustainable economic development of The Bahamas is contingent on a number of factors, including education and training: “Skills development is therefore essential not only for economic growth but also the personal development of our people,” he said.
In keeping with a pledge made in the government’s 2017 Manifesto, the Ministry of Labour established the National Committee for Industry & Skills Development.
The committee has been given responsibility to:
- Assess the current skill needs among key areas of the private sector;
- Collect information on the skills challenges faced by various sectors and identify common themes and priorities;
- Develop a comprehensive list of the competencies, credentials and certifications that are required to sustain growth in the economy;
- Identify related challenges such as education, immigration, and other systemic issues, that affect skill development;
- Create ongoing systems and fora for collaboration among industry leaders and associations to address the specific needs within their sectors and subsectors; and,
- Prepare and submit a report, with follow-up activities, and recommendations for the government to consider.
“As you meet today and deliberate on the theme, ‘Forging Our Future: Assessing & Analyzing the Skills Gap in The Bahamas,’ I reaffirm my government’s commitment to education reform,” the Prime Minister said.
He added: “We intend to ensure that Bahamians are adequately equipped to embrace and maximize employment opportunities and participate in our economy in productive and meaningful ways.”
To this end, he said that there is yet much more to be done such as providing pre-school education for approximately 1,000 students in this new academic school year; free tuition at BTVI for students who meet eligibility requirements; and, shortly, commence the phased introduction of laptops for teachers and tablets for primary school students, thereby expanding exposure to and use of technology early in the teaching/learning process.
A purpose of the symposium would be to offer recommendations to the government in achieving its stated objective.
“We are all aware that the matter of job skills is a perennial one. Many of you here today, have been working diligently for many years to improve and build capacity in the workforce, and create increased opportunities for various industries,” the Prime Minister said.
Statistics from the Department of Immigration confirm that thousands of work permits are approved on an annual basis for foreign workers. Many of these applications are approved primarily because employers claim and provide justification that in many instances Bahamians lack the requisite skills and/or certifications to fill various vacancies.
A key objective of the symposium is to identify skill sets and certifications that are needed with a view to reducing dependency on foreign workers and increasing local work force skills capacity, stimulating growth in the Bahamian economy and reducing the level of unemployment, the Prime Minister said.
The work of the committee will form the basis for the development and implementation of the best mechanisms to strengthen the educational system and, in particular, technical and vocational training programmes, he said.
In July of this year the Prime Minister opened the Department of Labour’s One-Stop-Service Centre, which enables job seekers and employers to interface more easily online.
“Undoubtedly, this support service will become an essential one as the numbers of persons in the job market increase due to their acquired employability skills,” he said.
He said also looks forward to reviewing the comprehensive report from the multi-sectoral National Committee for Industry and Skills Development. The report will assist the government in linking the “critical needs” of employers with the curricula and training needed to assist the labour force in meeting the demands of the job market now and in the future.
“It is essential for the government to partner with stakeholders, including private industry associations and leaders, labour organizations, educational institutions, and others in civil society. Our long-term social and economic success depends upon our ability to harness the capabilities and maximize the potential of our Bahamian workforce. This is a key priority for us all.
“This National Skills Symposium is, undoubtedly, a step that will facilitate the accomplishment of our goals,” he said.
The National Committee was formed by Cabinet several months ago and includes representatives from the National Congress of Trade Unions Bahamas (NCTUB); the Commonwealth of The Bahamas Trade Union Congress (CBTUC); The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation; the National Training Agency (NTA); the University of The Bahamas (UB); University of The West Indies; LJM Maritime Academy; Southern University; The Bahamas Institute of Financial Services; The Bahamas Contractors Association; the Organization for Responsible Governance; and a number of private sector companies both in Nassau and Grand Bahama.
By Lindsay Thompson
Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis addresses the National Skills Symposium, September 17, 2018 at National Training Agency.
(BIS Photos/Yontalay Bowe)