Today’s Editorial: Brain drain must end

A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

The Cayman Islands finds itself faced with a reduction in the number of professional employees, a condition brought on mainly by Hurricane Ivan in September.

It’s what Sherri Bodden-Cowan, Business Staffing Board chairwoman, has termed brain drain.

She and the Staffing Board have been told by several companies in the financial industry that they are having problems retaining, returning and recruiting top level staff.

The reasons for the staffing problems are varied.

There is a lack of accommodation throughout Grand Cayman and many people are still faced with inconveniences post Ivan.

Some non-exempted employees are thinking twice about returning to the Cayman Islands to work for only two or three years.

Part of the answer to the employee woes can be found in the Immigration Law, which was approved in 2004 and took effect last May.

Only a limited number of exempted employees – those who will be permitted to stay nine years instead of seven – were approved last year.

Efforts are being made now to identify more employees who could be considered exempt.

Being exempted does not guarantee the work permit holders would, after eight years, be given permanent residency. They would still have to qualify under the point system.

The plan to identify more exempted employees is a good one. Time has shown that foreign nationals must be recruited to help the Cayman Islands rebuild.

But while foreign nationals are being brought in, qualified Caymanians must be given priority for every job.

As employers struggle to rebuild and find qualified employees, they must make a commitment to seeing that the skills they seek are being taught to young Caymanians so that Cayman Islands nationals can one day step into those jobs.

Every corporation now has the opportunity to groom and grow the employees they will need in the future right here in the Cayman Islands.

It’s the right thing to do.

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