MONTEGO BAY, St James — Tourism stakeholders are hoping a programme to train new workers for the sector will help fill vacancies before the winter season begins.
“We have to train and train and train and train and do crash training too,” said Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett.
He was speaking during Friday’s launch of a database, compiled by the Jamaica Centre for Tourism Innovation (JCTI), which is expected to pair employers looking for qualified staff with job hunters that are certified. It is called the JCTI Database of Certified Individuals.
Jamaica’s tourism industry, like in many countries across the globe, has been hit by a shortage of skilled labour. With businesses taking a battering during the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers found other jobs. There is now a scramble to replace them but new entrants need to be trained.
“We are looking at bringing in perhaps a 100 or so young people to train them in basic waitering and so on; to have lunches here so that they can serve and build their skills over the next six to eight weeks,” Bartlett said from the Montego Bay Convention Centre where the launch was held. “So that by the start of the winter season, we could have a cadre of a few hundred young people who can move directly into the industry under this crash training programme.”
President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association Clifton Reader, who has been among the most vocal industry players warning of a shortage of skilled labour, is eager to see hard data that will paint a clearer picture.
“COVID made a lot of people basically rethink their lives. Many people went into home-grown businesses and have done exceptionally well and have left the industry. The figures, I would like to see and I know there is a survey going out shortly, that will attempt to do so. Also we’ve seen that greener pastures in the north have attracted some of them,” he noted during Friday’s launch.
The wages paid to local workers has been cited as one of the factors that make them more susceptible to seeking out opportunities abroad. Bartlett spoke of the need to do more to hang onto those still working in the local tourism sector.
“We have to reimagine our own labour market arrangements to be more attractive to those people who are still available to us,” he said.