The Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources, Labor and Immigration is set to launch a Job Board which will serve as a recruitment hub aligning BVIslanders with job opportunities in the British Virgin Islands.

This was announced by Acting Labor Commissioner Mrs. Michelle McLean during the “Education Labor Connect” initiative press conference held earlier today November 24th, 2021.

“The Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Job Board will aid with connecting employers to our VIslander and Belonger job seekers, as all vacancies within the territory will be advertised on the Job Board, while the resumes of all our registered job applicants will also be listed to create greater accountability.”

“There will be a matching of skills to the needs of organizations. No longer will there be doubt as to whether or not a VIslander or belonger applied for a position, as they would truly be given first preference,” Mrs. McLean continued.

Speaking also at today’s press conference was Minister of Education, Dr. the Honorable Wheatley who underscored the importance of focusing on resolve rather than the mass immigration issues at hand.

“It’s certainly a proud day for me because what we’re doing this morning is, we’re lighting a candle as opposed to cursing the darkness. As we all know, we are in the tourist season and just about everybody wants to get a work permit filled. And while we understand the need for processing work permits and getting qualified and suitable persons to work within the workforce, we also cannot ignore the growing unemployment that we have in the territory.”

“We have many persons out there struggling to find jobs. Now the question is — why do these persons not have jobs while there are job opportunities available? Many employers speak about the readiness of job seekers to be able to take up their responsibilities in their respective jobs. Now, instead of cursing the darkness and saying that we have a challenge with having suitable applicants, let’s turn that weakness into a strength by preparing our job seekers for the job market.”

This was also echoed by Mrs. McLean who said “there is indeed a noticeable skills gap as employers have stated that they are unable to find employees on island with the needed skills, even for entry-level positions, which is further compounded by some employers now requesting that on island hires be vaccinated. Employer are frustrated with having difficulties finding employees with the appropriate skills and attitudes and employees are frustrated with not being able to find work.”

She further underscored the danger of not tapping in to on-island talents, adding that it works against the economic vitality of the BVI.

“We must also take note that this on-island skills gap may represent a pool of untapped potential and talent with dire consequences including economic underperformance, social unrest and individual despair. This skills gap may take different forms such as youths struggling to enter the workforce or mid-career learners who have lost their jobs because of closings or layoffs and who must now adapt to a developing workforce.”

When questioned on when the Job Board will be launched by our media house, Mrs. Clean said early 2022, adding that operations will be managed by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The Minister of Natural Resources, Labor and Immigration, and key partner to the program, Honorable Vincent Wheatley also expressed his excitement and commitment in a fervent effort to ensure that BVIslanders are afforded first preference at job opportunities.

“As we seek greater autonomy for the BVI going forward, we have to take more responsibility for how the country develops… We are putting a rudder on the ship; we are going to decide how we are going to go forward by empowering the people on this boat to chart their own course.”

The Labor Minister further highlighted the fact that other countries reserve jobs that falls within a certain segment for locals. These countries he said, are very intentional about training nationals to fill the skill gap and support a thriving economy.

He further revealed that efforts to gather information on the skill gap has already begun under the leadership of Dr. Karl Dawson who is overseeing the project.

Honorable Vincent Wheatley have always made clear his intention to localize the workforce, through labor and immigration reform and providing training opportunities for locals.

Speaking at the Honestly Speaking Radio Programme on Tuesday, August 18, 2020, Honorable Wheatley said “we are moving towards a higher ratio of locals and belongers in the workforce. I think right now it is probably 30 per cent locals, 70 per cent expats, that 30 needs to move to 70, and 30 per cent expats.”

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture launched the “Education Labor Connect” initiative earlier this year aimed at ensuring that appropriate information is gathered from education and industry so that relevant stakeholders can make informed decisions about hiring, training and related activities. The key stakeholders are the BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association (BVICCHA), HLSCC, the Ministry and Department of Labor and Workforce Planning, the Central Statistics Office and the host Ministry.