UPDATED: St Bess job worry - Stakeholders complain of shortage of highly skilled workers, urge focus shift in schools
As St Elizabeth seeks to become a major contributor to the growth agenda being pushed by the Government, the parish has found itself reeling, as there are no qualified takers for some jobs requiring high skills and education.
At a Gleaner Inside the Municipal Corporations forum held in Black River in the Breadbasket Parish last week, stakeholders and members of the business community warned that there could be serious fallout and companies may be forced to recruit workers from elsewhere, including overseas, if the problem is not addressed. They are calling for urgent training of young people and a major shift in the focus of schools in the parish.
"There are not enough trained persons. You will have some persons who can do the basic, but when it comes on to the technical part of certain areas, there are not able to perform," said businessman Dr Lynden Rose, as he laid bare the problem of the shortage of well-trained professionals.
Rose was supported by president of the Black River chapter of the St Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce, David Morris, who is worried that with the parish being heavily dominated by agricultural activities, there weren't enough highly trained farm specialists.
"We need more people to do the advanced agriculture work, and those are the people we are short of," Morris said.
Concerns were also raised about the parish's inability to supply the local labour market with professional welders, who, it was argued, will be needed in great numbers because of the reopening of the Alpart plant.
"Speaking to somebody recently, they told me that A-class welders are very short. And with the reopening of Alpart, we have to be proactive in getting well-trained welders and millwrights," Deputy Superintendent of Police Paul Bernard stated.
There were further worries about the need for language specialists in the parish to help bolster the local tourism industry, which stakeholders are hoping to expand.
Orville Sutherland, guest relations supervisor at Appleton Rum Tour, lamented that his company was having a challenge finding translators and well-trained tour guides, despite offering "good pay".
"We pay well, but we just cannot find people in the parish to do the work, we have to get them elsewhere," he said, hinting that there was an additional cost to temporarily house those persons.
Sutherland explained that translators and tour guides were necessary in the rum tour experience because of the diversity of visitors captivated by the popular attraction.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Orville Sutherland as Orville Taylor)