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'Nation not prepared for logistics hub'

Published:Monday | December 2, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Jermaine Francis, Staff Reporter

As discussions continue around the benefits Jamaica could accumulate from the proposed logistics hub, one senior educator is of the view that Jamaicans are not prepared enough to grasp the promised opportunities from such an initiative.

Dr Paul Aiken, deputy dean in charge of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, School of Engineering, said the development of the hub would see a demand for a wide range of skills that the country is not yet prepared to take up.

He argued that if and when the hub is up and running, foreigners might have to be called in to fill certain positions.

Overseas employees

"In the first phase of deployment, we may be forced to employ qualified workers from overseas while we continue to increase the number of qualified Jamaicans. We may even see an influx of returning residents who have been waiting for secure job opportunities to return to Jamaica," Aiken told The Gleaner.

He added that when the proposed logistics hub opens, that is probably when many Jamaicans will rapidly seek to get themselves qualified for the available jobs.

Aiken said, as a result, the Government's main focus now should be on ensuring that tertiary-education facilities are developing relevant programmes to meet the job demands that the hub will present.

"The key role for the Government right now is to facilitate the tertiary institutions to provide the necessary training, and to assist students in financing such training," he stated.

Aiken expressed that the Government should also consider special financing for some of these programmes, especially advanced studies.

"The advance degrees may be financed with various bonding structures in place to ensure that the graduates will stay and work in Jamaica for a stated time," Aiken posited.

He said the Port Authority of Jamaica should also work closely with these institutions to define the range of skill sets that the logistics hubs will demand.

Aiken said already, technicians, engineers, accountants and several skilled workers such as drivers and hospitality workers are but a few of the occupations the hub will require in high demand.

He added that the HEART Trust/NTA, UWI, and the Caribbean Maritime Institute are already planning partnerships that will see students being trained in relevant areas.