Column: Unemployment & Shifting Job Market

March 9, 2017 | 31 Comments

[Opinion column written by Jason Hayward]

Since 2007, Bermuda has lost roughly 6,500 jobs resulting in a decline of 3,696 Bermudian jobs. While Bermuda’s economy has shown some signs of stabilizing, it is not growing at an adequate rate to produce new jobs.

Business efficiencies and competitiveness have caused employers to re-examine pre-recession employment levels. As a result, the job market continues to struggle and has yet to rebound.

Theoretically, there are enough jobs on the Island to employ every Bermudian as there are more jobs in the economy then there are Bermudians in the workforce. Despite this, however, Bermudians still remain unemployed in disturbingly high numbers.

In recent years, an alarming trend has developed where the employment levels of expatriate employees have increased while, in sharp contrast, Bermudians continue to lose jobs. I believe it would be safe to say that we have a job and workforce development crisis on our hands.

Bermudian Employees & Competitiveness

It is evident that Bermuda’s unemployment levels are structural in nature. Unemployment is high yet local employers still cannot find the skillsets they demand within the local population causing them to import labour from other countries. There is seemingly a mismatch between the skillsets that the unemployed possess and the skills demanded by employers.

We have Bermudians who have been unemployed for 3 – 5 years, and while some are able to secure hustles or short-term, part-time work, full-time employment continues to elude them.

This creates an additional problem as the longer that these individuals remain unemployed, the more difficult it becomes for them to gain employment as their skill-sets become less relevant and may not be suitable for new job opportunities that exist. This ultimately reduces the competitiveness of the Bermudian employee.

Industrial Employment Shifts

We have experienced industrial shifts in our job market over the past decade. The job data from the Department of Statistics reflects that amongst Bermuda’s industrial sectors experiencing job losses since 2007, the top five industries affected include:

  • Construction [-1,616 jobs],
  • Hotels [-791],
  • International Business [-789],
  • Transportation & Communication [-719], and,
  • Business Services [-622].

The Construction sector, which was once one of the leading employers on the Island, now barely ranks amongst the top ten industrial sectors. Those are the country’s trade jobs. Where do displace skilled construction workers, electricians, plumbers and carpenters find alternative employment in this economy?

Public Administration has grown to become the Country’s leading employer, overtaking International Business Activity. Some view the level of employment in this sector as a financial burden to the Country. However, the Public Administration sector has been a stabilizer, making it of significant importance to the job market and economy. Drastic cuts to employment in this sector would be catastrophic.

Demands

Where does the opportunities exist? The only industrial sector to experience job growth in the last decade is the Education, Health & Social Work Sector. This sector has grown by 437 jobs since 2007 and is now the third largest industry in terms of employment.

This industry is where we see both current and future job growth. Occupational categories within this industry that have a shortage of skilled Bermudians include: Registered Nurses, Dental Hygienists, Pharmacists, Secondary School Teachers, and Nursemaid/nannies.

The other notable occupational categories in other sectors that have a significant shortage of Bermudian employees include Financial Manager, Accountants, Brokers, Investment Officers, Police Officers, Waiters/Servers and Masons. These occupations are where the current opportunities exist.

Workforce Development Plan

Bermuda needs a workforce development plan to help realign the skillsets Bermudians possess with those that are in demand in the workforce; a comprehensive plan that will change our current trajectory.

In a recent Bernews article, I highlighted the key outputs of such a plan. To be successful, this plan would require buy-in from all critical stakeholders. The plan would also need to remove the barriers that are currently blocking Bermudians from having access to employment.

In order to reduce the structural unemployment issue, the workforce development plan must address two critical areas: 1. work experience, and, 2. education & skillset development.

Work Experience:

When local employers cannot find the necessary skillsets in Bermuda that they require, they can import the labour with relative ease from another country. This may be great for business but it is ultimately bad for the Bermudian workforce. There is currently no framework in place to motivate or encourage an employer to invest in developing the local workforce.

Educated Bermudians remain locked out of employment because they lack the relevant work experience employer require. Experience they may have received, or can receive, if it was a condition of granting a work permit. Experience they can receive if employers have a long-term business strategy with Bermudian labour at its core.

Education and Skillsets Development:

Employees need to commit to re-tooling and retraining in areas that are in current and future demand. Resources must be made available to ensure that employees have access to training and skillset development programs.

The Bermuda College should be the bridge between skillsets demanded by the industry and skillsets held by employees. Professional and career guided development should be on the forefront of the College’s agenda; it should remain flexible to adapt and respond quickly to the ever-changing job market.

Currently, there is an extremely high youth unemployment with the 2015 unemployment rate of 23% for persons aged 16 to 24 and 9% for the 25 to 34 age cohort. Given these alarming statistics, high-school students also need to prepare themselves for the current and future job market.

Students learning should be in direct alignment with the jobs that are currently in demand. Career counselors need to a play critical role in placing employees on career pathways that lead to employment.

Employers should broaden partnerships with the Department of Workforce Development, Bermuda College and the Senior Schools to increase the on-the -job training opportunities for Bermudians including, but not limited to:

  • Co-operative education – college students alternate study semesters with paid work terms where they work on projects and gain job skills.
  • Internship – a short-term position with an emphasis on education, not employment.
  • In-house training – the employer offers formal or semi-formal sessions to teach new systems, applications, procedures or work duties.
  • External training – the employer sends an employee to an off-site training program to help them learn new systems, applications, procedures or work duties. Some employers may enroll employees in college or university courses.
  • Mentoring – employees are paired with a more senior employee and given personal coaching
  • Job rotation – employees rotate through several positions within a company, exposing them to various aspects of the enterprise.

We must recognize that there is an urgent need to address the pressure that unemployment has placed on our current system. Unless there is critical intervention, many unemployed who do not re-tool themselves may never find their way back into the workforce.

The harsh reality is that there is no short-term solution to structural unemployment; we need systemic long-term solutions. Finding and implementing such solutions will require a multi-pronged approach that must include collaboration between the Government, industry, employers and individuals.

- Jason Hayward

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Comments (31)

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  1. Justin says:

    Why doesn’t the BPSU hire additional workers for the sake of helping the unemployment numbers? Or maybe the BPSU could give out scholarships to help retraining?

    • News Flash
      Gutemalan workers refuse to work after not being paid.
      I thought Slavery days were over, sad thing is de ideology is not.
      United We Stand

  2. no love says:

    Let’s summarize: I didn’t apply myself in school and research what is needed in Bermuda so government should retrain me, offer a hand out. I didn’t feel the need to work overseas after I graduated university to gain valuable experience so government and employers should train me at their cost. At what point do individuals bear the responsibility to train themselves, educate themselves and do what is necessary to gain employment? Last I checked our county is tiny and has limited employment opportunities. If you want to succeed here educate yourself in a field that is needed, spend time overseas learning your trade and getting experience like those horrible expats have done. They left their home to further their work experience. Today the world is global, Bermudians need to think the same. There are many countries open for locals to work unlike Bermuda which is so closed. Opportunities exist for anyone that wants it and choses a field that is needed. A snowboarder will likely find employment opportunities rare here. Should the government or businesses be responsible to retrain them at their cost due to poor the their poor choices? Should the government or employer be responsible for a mason that chooses to not work as hard as he should, smoke weed failing drug tests and showing up for work late be responsible to accept those traits just to employ him?
    Wake up, educate yourself, get experience and work towards your future. Look in the mirror as to why you are unemployed and fix it.

    • Tired says:

      You are not being for real are you?! So glad you was so fortunate!!! God does not sleep and Karma is real you should mind how you think and speak. Not everyone was fed with a golden spoon!!! How about when you do apply yourself and you watch ones that can barely speak English come and take the very job that you excelled. Some company’s aren’t even allowing ones to grow before you talk maybe do a little research on all walks of people!

      • Perhaps, Tired, if you could read and write in English, you’d also have a good job.

      • inna says:

        Its a silver spoon inna?

      • Kathy says:

        When I was in the maternity ward at KEMH, I met a nurse who had left the Philippines to make a better life for her family. I will never forget her telling me with tears in her eyes as she stared at my newborn baby that her little three year old and husband were back in the Philippines (she was not allowed to bring them in as part of her work permit). This is sacrifice!

        Unfortunately, some of the lost jobs in Bermuda in the last few years have been out of our control and very unfortunate, but some of the people who are not employed are not employable!

        Ask yourself, would you leave your wife / husband and three year old to go and work in the Philippines to make a living and gain work experience? If the answer is no, then it tells me that some of these expats, including the ones who can’t speak English as good as you can, are simply more motivated and more employable!

        • Sickofantz says:

          True but to be fair the reason it is worth if for a Phillipino is that the pittance they are being paid here represents riches in their own country. Sadly unemployed Bermudians don’t have that luxury.

  3. Tired says:

    Well as government’s revenue on work permits is extremely high and still growing I don’t see change!! The saddest part is that most of the low-middle class guest workers have no qualifications and learn the job when they arrive from their relative that is already here. I have seen it in more than one business. Who lives it knows it Bermudians need to rise up stop running or being afraid they can not touch majority as we are what makes them.

    • wahoo says:

      Name these businesses please, if what you say is true there are avenues for you.

    • Northrock says:

      This kind of comment is just the type of example of why many people in the semi skilled and unskilled markets cant find work. Its not about ability or intellect – its about a decent attitude, a willingness to work and to learn. This idea that because the world has not offered you what you think you deserve, people like you should ‘rise up…” is so whacko that no wonder you never get anywhere.

      I run a business. Some years ago I hired a young guy through Jobber.bm. He didnt know crap about anything….but he was a great kid, had a can-do attitude and he was as positive as a young, black male can be. I wish I still employed him but he runs his own business now and probably makes more than me.!

    • Albie says:

      If you believe that unqualified guest workers are being employed it is your duty to nform the Department of Immigration. If they do nothing then they, the civil servants are at fault and they should be dismissed.

  4. Aware says:

    This is a sensible article by Jason Hayward, however it does not address one important point which is that there is a component of the unemployed Bermudian with the wrong attitude. They seem unwilling to take a step back and equip themselves for the areas where there are jobs firstly and secondly there are many employers who have been burnt several times by taking on a Bermudian to train and develop and then have them not show up, be reliable, be committed etc.
    This is a problem in many first world nations – hence the unemployment in the US, the zero hours contracts in the U.K. Etc leading to Trump and Brexit. We are lucky in Bermuda in that there is the ability to flex our non international business guest worker population to either fill the gap or create the gap for Bermudians. However the Bermudians need to be willing first and skilled second. The comment by “no love” has some merit, but we are where we are. Government is the wrong organization to lead this however – create and fund a quangos with corporate efficiency and performance mindsets and have a board and management team with proven credentials to take this forward.

    • PBanks says:

      Unfortunately I think no love’s comment took it to such an extreme in terms of blanket-labelling the unemployed that it’s hard to take seriously. The suggestion of a quango is a good one; I don’t know if the PLP’s suggested ‘Job Corps’ was intended to be along those lines. Is what’s currently in place via the Bda Jobs Board working? It seems there’s a slight lack in the retraining/networking aspect but no reason that can’t be addressed?

  5. King Jammys says:

    You need to be EMPLOYABLE to be employed…..

    • sage says:

      Yeah, get s#!% faced in the bars all weekend, drive drunk, wake up at a strangers house in a pool of vomit, you’re hired! Smoke a beneficial, harmless plant in your own time, you are unemployable, we’re quite familiar with this type of chicanery.

  6. I shall not be moved says:

    The reason why Bermudians are not obtaining employment does not have to do with being willing and skilled, you have foreigners who come here and receive on the job training. Also I saw with my own eyes a foreigner who constantly called in sick, as a matter of fact they were out sick more than they were at work. This was on a weekly basis. We need to know and have an understanding of the coded language they use when they refer to us. Do not be deceived with Bermudians do not want to work, they are lazy and do not have the skills. This only applies to us.

    This individual was not fired, they eventually left the Island. Nor were they written up.

    What is really taking place is modern day slavery which is rooted in economic terrorism/oppression/violence/racism and bias. Hence Bermudians of African ancestry not being hired. Slavery never ended it evolved.

    Then we wonder why we have issues as a people it is because of the psychological warfare that has been taking place since the beginning of time.

    Life and death is in the power of the tongue.

    • fave says:

      I will take “things that never happened” for $500, Alex.

    • wahoo says:

      What a great excuse, can’t argue with that logic. I was wrong in thinking employers want good quality work at affordable prices so that I can get goods and services at a reasonable price. You just blew the lid off this story Geraldo.

  7. Road Safety says:

    There are some jobs Bermudians just do not want. They don’t want them. These jobs are advertised. Sometimes Bermudians do not apply for these jobs because they do not want them. Then, an expat gets hired for these jobs that Bermudians do not want to perform. Then we get Wayward and Famous claiming job discrimination and various assorted skullduggery on the part of the evil employers, who created these very jobs Bermudians may not want to perform. SMH.

  8. Tired Bermudian says:

    The real issue here with Bermudian employers is greed. They simply do not want to pay fair livable wages because at the end of the day they’re only out to make a profit, regardless of who it negatively affects in the process. The government needs to step in and implement a minimum wage to help combat this issue. Many business owners on this island are laughing all the way to the bank because there is not a minimum wage law in place. By not having a minimum wage we are allowing for two things
    (1) Qualified Bermudians (who might have to put food on the table, pay belco etc.) are not interested in these positions because the amount these employers are paying is simply not livable.
    (2) Bermudian employers purposely pay low wages to deter Bermudian applicants with the inevitable intentions of eventually bringing in a worker from oversees, paying them far less and in turn more profit for the business owner.

    These cases of crony capitalism constantly seen throughout this island needs to change.

    • inna says:

      So whats your solution? Waiting for the government to help you out?

    • Northrock says:

      Bermuda was recently named one of, if not THE, most expensive places to live in the world. Raising the cost of living will drive what we have to some other place. The answer is pure and simple – get off your butt, take advantage of the tons of training opportunities available through the Government…and go get a job.

    • Earth watch police says:

      From what I see Hayward is just posing why don’t the unions open up businesses so they can hire bermudian s
      All talk no action only time he breaks a sweat is when he marches.

    • Road Safety says:

      This tired narrative is simply untrue. It’s gone from being an urban myth to being the revived wisdom. It costs more to hire an expat than a Bermudian. Work permit fees etc. Face it, some people don’t want some jobs.

    • 32n64w says:

      Why don’t you start a business then, risk your own capital, pay the high wages you suggest and report back in six months time on how things are going. If it’s as easy as you say.

  9. No such thing as a free lunch says:

    OK, so what happens if I have to pay someone a minimum wage that is set at a level that I lose money offering a service or product? I will either stop selling that service/product, or I will have to charge you more for it to make up for my higher costs.

    • wahoo says:

      Not fair of you to use basic economics…it has no place in this discussion.

    • sage says:

      Good lord! You may have no choice but to substitute your Caspian Beluga Sturgeon Caviar with Ossetra again like you did for a while during the last recession. If your business plan relies on indentured laborers to succeed try tweaking it maybe.

  10. Stefan says:

    The disaffected youth, influenced by reggae, cannablis, violence, over sexualization, U.S. consumerism(fast life, fast doh, fast car,fast life, fast everting). Speed of life. Increased.

    Electromagnetic/atomic atmospheric soup,GMO, aspartame, chemtrail, vaccine absorption.

    Inquisition(warfare against indigenous melanated people) operations and attitudes(belief systems) ongoing.

    Principalities on high.

    Siddhartha, stomach digestion of ego, probiotics, second brain.

    Quantum/action at a distance. Spooky. Oneness. Inity/I-n-I.

    Illusion(Maya)~society and state(the particular condition of something/some one at a specific time).

    If the Hamitic youth and non-Cushitic (modern European youth) are not the purveyors of illicit substances then who? The Filipinos or some other immigrant entrant?

    Who will service the affluent, somewhat decadent Bermudian state and its first world tastes/predilections?

    Their role maybe, one that they’ve fully embraced too. 23% unemployment for those under 24. Spoke in the proverbial wheel?

    Good ideas though, Hayward. Some that could certainly be implemented, with the correct government and corporate cooperation.

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