'Tap in' to youth for economic success

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

THE Bahamas must "tap in" to the potential of its youth, a governance reformer said yesterday, with economic success "hinging" on its capacity to develop a viable workforce.

Matthew Aubry, executive director for the Organisation for Responsible Governance (ORG), stressed the importance of identifying the key gaps in this nation's workforce. He was speaking with Tribune Business on the sidelines of a press conference to announce a National Skills Symposium, slated for Monday, September 19, at the National Training Agency (NTA) on Gladstone Road.

The symposium is an initiative of the Ministry of Labour's National Committee for Industry and Skills Development, in conjunction with key stakeholders elsewhere in government, the private sector, civil society and educational institutions.

Among the symposium's objectives are "the development of a consensus-based assessment of the current skills needs among the key sectors in private industry in The Bahamas", and "he creation of a list of competencies, credentials and certifications that are required to stimulate growth in the Bahamian economy".

Mr Aubry said: "The symposium is really driven towards bringing all the stakeholders together to understand and analyse what are all the key gaps in our workforce, and what's holding us back.

"The reality is we have a lot of groups in private industry, government and the educational system that are working towards meeting these skills needs. None of us have come together under one roof to determine what is working and what's not working; what are the real needs and how do we line those up? If we see that different industries have the same key needs then we need to prioritise that."

Mr Aubry continued: "One of the assets The Bahamas has is the talent of our youth. We need to ensure that they are given every opportunity to not only get skills that are recognised locally but also internationally.

"If we don't have those training and certifications available now in BTVI or the National Training Agency, then we have to work out how we can get them. The economy is hinged on our capacity to have a viable workforce. We want to see certifications and competencies that are recognised on a larger scale."

Labour Minister Dion Foulkes yesterday said his ministry considers the skills gap issue a "national priority".

"The longstanding negative impact of the disparity between employer needs and the available workforce has critically limited the growth of the private sector and, subsequently, the economic development of our nation," Mr Foulkes added.