Head of the History Department, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, Dr Kathleen Monteith, said she was taken aback by recent pronouncements by the culture minister, Lisa Hanna, and chairman of the National Heritage Trust, Ainsley Henriques, on the shortage of trained experts in the fields for cultural history and archaeology.
Dr Monteith noted that the university, as the main training ground for such professionals in the island, has prepared enough history graduates over the years, to fill the need for archaeologists and cultural historians.
However, she expressed that not many graduates were willing to work in museums and on national sites because of the paltry salaries.
"The problem our cultural institutions face is really the standard of remuneration. Many of the persons who do history are going into law, international relations or teaching (because of the salaries)," she noted.
During last week's Gleaner Editors' Forum, Henriques and Hanna posited the view that the country's material heritage could be at risk, as there was an acute shortage of qualified experts such as curators, archaeologists and conservators in the country.
Appeal to stakeholders
At the time, Henriques made the call for those involved in education and training at universities to seriously consider these areas of study.
Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, UWI, Dr Swithin Wilmot, said that part of the enigma following the pronouncements was that there were several history graduates in those areas searching for jobs, but are being turned away.
"We have graduates who are looking for jobs in cultural institutions, only to be told those jobs are closed. They are being told the Government is not employing anybody due to IMF (International Monetary Fund) cuts," Dr Wilmot noted.
In fact, Dr Monteith said she knew of at least one recent incident in which a graduate went to the Jamaica National Heritage Trust enquiring about a job and was told there were no openings.