While government seeks to remedy the national crisis of a skills gap, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis asserted Monday that it will also heighten its efforts to crack down on employers who illegally employ foreign workers to meet employment demand.
Dr. Minnis’ assertions came at the opening of a National Skills Symposium launched at the National Training Agency yesterday morning.
The gathering brought together various stakeholders from private and public entities to discuss the way forward as it relates remedying the skills gap throughout The Bahamas.
“The recent labour statistics compiled has pegged unemployment in the country at 10.1 per cent,” noted Matt Albury, committee member for the Organization for Responsible Governance.
“Thirty-four per cent of employers complain that finding job-specific skills among the unemployed is the most difficult issue when attempting to hire. This symposium is aimed at tackling that.
“At the end of our dialogue, we will draft a document to present to government which will hopefully assist with charting the way forward for the country as it relates to closing the skills gap in the country.”
The current deficit of required skills among the unemployed is a part of the reason why so many employers have hired foreign workers, affirmed the prime minister.
But, Dr. Minnis said it’s a practice that must be regulated in tandem with ensuring that Bahamians are adequately trained.
“If you allow illegals to continue to be employed under the radar and establish an underground economy then that has a great effect on your society and they would continue to come here once there are opportunities and so, therefore, we, as mature citizens, should respect the law and apply for them properly” Dr. Minnis said.
The dire need to address the current skills gap has been deemed a national priority.
To this end, the prime minister said the government has tightened its grip to ensure that employers who seek to hire foreign workers illegally are hauled before the court.
“Those found doing this have been prosecuted and we are continuing to do that. If you check with the immigration department they have taken these sort of instances before the court for prosecution and they will become even more aggressive,” he said.
“Because the message must be loud and clear. We cannot have a system of ‘catch and release,’ we must all become involved and become law-abiding citizens. We must apply for individuals legally and they will be dealt with legally.”