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Too many lawyers and accountants - Government being encouraged to guide workforce down new paths

Published:Sunday | April 24, 2016 | 12:00 AMRyon Jones
These University of Technology graduates entered the world of work, but many could struggle to find jobs based on their areas of studies.

The Government is being encouraged to take the lead in creating a workforce that will be competitive in the global marketplace and can respond to advancements in technologies.

Chief Executive Officer of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Dennis Chung, believes that too many persons are embarking on studies in fields where there are just no jobs for them when they leave school.

According to Chung, the focus should instead be on areas where Jamaica has a comparative advantage and where employment will be readily available here and abroad.

He said that the Government will have to nudge the education and training institutions to change their current modus operandi and to focus on preparing students for the emerging economic opportunities.

"The Government should be sitting down with the universities and saying we want to provide some seed funding to start such and such a programme and also outline a plan with them. So, for the first three years or so, you provide some seed funds until the programme takes off," Chung told The Sunday Gleaner.

"It wouldn't be expensive, especially in relation to the output that you are expecting because you create the labour force that you need to drive the economy forward."

 

ADJUSTING LOAN POLICY

 

Chung is also of the opinion that the Students' Loan Bureau's policy for lending money needs to be adjusted as too many persons are studying business administration and law.

"The Students' Loan Bureau should have a policy of lending money or giving grants to people who are going to study in areas where we have a competitive advantage rather than anybody just comes in and gets some money to borrow and then when they come out of university, they are not in an area where there are jobs," Chung argued.

Business administration and law are two of the areas that have been deemed by Director of the Labour Market Research and Intelligence Department at the Heart/Trust NTA Allison Birch as having a surplus of persons.

Birch noted that technology is the driving force behind many of the emerging occupations and many of those in increased demand.

"One of the areas locally is animation. Some occupational areas within that industry are animators, layout artists, and the illustration artists," said Birch.

"The animation industry is a global marketplace, so many of these persons can operate as freelancers and don't have to rely on jobs here. We have seen an increase in that area as Jamaica has actually emerged as an animation outsourcing destination."

Birch argued that given our close proximity to North America, the abundance of raw talent and inexpensive labour, Jamaica should be looking to provide goods and services that will allow us to tap more into that market.

"You have the mobile application developers. We have increased usage in smartphones and increased usage of data services both locally and globally. So this is another occupational area where we don't have to rely on local employers," said Birch.

"We also expect to see an increase in the enterprise mobile app market, where you have more companies and users relying on apps for productivity."

According to Birch, a boom is also expected in the aviation industry due to the anticipated development of the logistics hub.

Growth is also predicted in tourism and cargo movement, while there is a constant demand for new products, hence the need for product developers.

She has also identified a need for science, mathematics and special-education teachers.

 

ONLINE SERVICES AN OPTION

 

In the meantime, Chung is suggesting that the vast number of accountants and lawyers on the island should look to take their services online.

"There are a lot of lawyers and a lot of accountants and they should be looking to give advice over the Internet, so they should be creating processing centres and providing services electronically," Chung said. "So, too, with our nurses. How can we utilise that skill set within the context of a BPO (business processing outsourcing) sector?

"Medical tourism is something we need to look into as well and sports tourism. I think there is big advantage there also."

It has not been lost on Chung that a large portion of the labour force is unskilled and he believes they will be best suited in the agro-processing sector.

"To do this, it requires the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation sitting down to really determine what are the things we are going to focus on from a comparative advantage point of view and what are the things that are going to make this economy grow" Chung said.

"By doing that, then you actually create policies to push people in that direction."

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com