“The truth is an offence but not a sin.” — Bob Marley
During the course of our lives, we will be faced with either having to tell people what they want to hear or telling them what they need to hear.
More often than not, when you tell people what they need to hear, versus what they want to hear, they may or may not get upset with you.
However, the truth has to be said regardless.
At present in Bermuda we unfortunately face a growing number of persons who do not have the required skill sets to get jobs that provide decent rates of pay and a steady career.
Many of these jobs are in the following fields: auto mechanics, barbering, construction, culinary arts, electrical, nail technicians and plumbing.
Reading the recent Royal Gazette article by Renae Stampp about veteran barber Theodosia Lambert pretty much crystallised where we are as a country in many regards.
Ms Lambert, who used to cut my hair as a young boy, stated some words that will always stand out in my mind.
“That’s the hardest part because we always sit back and complain about foreigners coming into our country and taking over, but we don’t do anything.”
She added that many young people might not find the business attractive because it took dedication to be successful, although it was still a viable career option.
Ms Lambert said: “You have to be here in order to make money.”
Essentially, what she is saying is exactly what many Bermudian tradesmen have been saying for years. There simply are not enough young persons looking to get into the trades.
The net result is threefold.
First, unskilled Bermudians are left either unemployed or underemployed.
Second, many employers will seek to gain work permits in order to fill their company requirements.
Third, had the Bermudian been employed, those funds would most likely be spent in our economy.
Much of those funds being generated by guest workers ends up leaving the island, never to return.
Without a doubt, this has a negative, knock-on effect on the drop in local retail sales.
As an ever-developing country, we need our people, especially our young people, to learn these skills in order to be a permanent part of our workforce.
So where do we go from here as a country?
As leaders, we have to be ready to discuss those uncomfortable truths with each other and, most importantly, with our young people.
Despite the best efforts of all concerned, international business is facing challenges with numerous external forces, coupled with mergers and acquisitions.
The net result is that the footprint of employment opportunities is not expanding as it did over the past 20 years.
Tourism, our second leg, is growing, yet growing slowly. Fortunately, we saw 100 more Bermudians enter the hospitality industry in 2018.
While this is encouraging news, we must get more of our people willing and ready to take advantage of the many opportunities that will come online.
Fintech is still embryonic and will take some time to develop significant numbers of employees.
So the reality is that the bulk of jobs in this country are in those previously mentioned service industries.
This is precisely where we must direct our young persons to look at as first-choice options.
For too long, persons have viewed the trades as second and third-choice options. This mindset has to stop.
We must get back to the basics that built this country for centuries.
The Department of Workforce Development has been working towards transforming the lives and livelihoods of Bermudians by creating pathways for jobs that lead to careers, six-figure salaries, business and home ownership.
We encourage those that are interested in learning these lifelong careers to seek out the following agencies:
•• The Department of Workforce Development
•• The Bermuda College
•• The Construction Association of Bermuda
Most of all, seek out skilled tradesmen, such as Ms Lambert, who are willing to impart their knowledge on to the next generation.
We cannot and must not sugarcoat the local and global realities facing our country.
It is our duty to protect Bermudian labour, at all levels, via fair and equitable legislation. Equally as important, it is our duty to transform our people into that multiskilled labour force.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org