Trade apprenticeships are available

The 28 November issue of the Caymanian Compass featured an article by Alan Markoff that addressed the rising costs of construction in the Cayman Islands.

The article was well-researched and accurate.

The Caymanian Contractors Association would like to enlarge upon one point made in that article.

Regarding the fact that other countries create new skilled construction industry workers through apprenticeship programmes for their citizens, Mr. Markoff quoted a CCA statement that, ‘In Cayman we lack the policies to attract and retain skilled trades people. We lack the policies to establish viable apprenticeships for our young people. And…we now lack the strong dollar to buy our way out of the problem. Foreign workers will be attracted to go elsewhere.’

There is no question that Cayman’s economic position is slipping as a result of our dollar declining, along with the US dollar, to which we are tied.

This is a reality that we cannot change. In order to compete in the future, we must do two things: we must do more to attract skilled foreign workers than before and we must encourage our own people to study trades. It is this latter point upon which the CCA wishes to elaborate.

In 2006, The Minister of Education and Employment Alden McLaughlin, approached the CCA to learn what could be done to dramatically improve vocational training for Caymanians.

We recommended two steps. First, create a fund by which Caymanians can receive overseas training. This could easily be done, with no additional taxation by setting aside a percentage of all work permit fees from the construction industry and to earmark this money for scholarships. By doing so, there would be no additional burden on the industry and each employer would pay his fair share, based upon the number of work permits he received.

The second step would be to improve the vocational training at UCCI to follow the needs of the industry itself.

In 2007, the CCA Education Committee, headed by Mr. John Harvey, began a series of regular meetings with the UCCI Vocational Training Committee, headed by Mr. Ray Jones, to accomplish this. Subsequently, CCA members were polled to ascertain the staffing needs of local contractors and the programme, which is now in place at UCCI is designed to satisfy that need as much as is possible.

As of September, 2007, vocational students at UCCI are taking a one-year introductory course that will familiarise them with the primary construction trades. If they find at the end of this course, that they wish to go on to a full apprenticeship programme, it will be possible for them to go overseas for such training.

At present, there is no full apprenticeship programme at UCCI and this, for the moment, is as it should be. Until we have sufficient students who wish to commit to such study, the cost of creating and maintaining a full programme which is greatly undersubscribed would be very wasteful.

Government, UCCI and the CCA are all watching the present programme with great interest. Should the present efforts be fruitful and we can inspire students to pursue full apprenticeship, we will need to satisfy their ambition,

First, through overseas training and – if interest is sustained – through consideration of a local apprenticeship system through UCCI.

The CCA would like to stress that this major step forward could only have come about through the zeal of the Minister of Education Mr. Alden McLaughlin and the President of UCCI Mr. Hassan Syed.

Cayman Contractors Association