Develop Talent

Sidebar:Patricia Bell & Mary Rodrigues


This is the first in a series of interviews highlighting the people involved in the Future of Cayman economic development initiative as co-chairs of the five driver groups. This quarter we look at the key driver Develop Talent and interview Mary Rodrigues, chief officer for the Ministry of Education, Training & Employment and Patricia Bell, chief HR manager for the Water Authority. They discuss what the Future of Cayman initiative means to them and the part they play in their role as co-chairs in this public/ private sector partnership.

Q:In your opinion, what makes the Future of Cayman Forum different from other economic development initiatives?

Pat: I think the way it has brought both public and private sectors together with a focus on the country as a whole is quite unique. With deliberate intent, there has been equal weight given to both sectors as we work together to achieve our shared goals. It is not about personalities and individual gain; it really is about the pooling of experience and knowledge. Working within the guidelines set out by the Chamber and the forum facilitator IBM, we were able to do some big picture thinking together whilst brainstorming some ideas to get us there. 

What the forum represented on November 11 for me was the coming together of a country, putting individual agendas aside to better serve our people. The current recession has made us all more resourceful and I think this is another example of that resourcefulness in action. Although the forum was initiated by the Chamber, it is clear that it now belongs to us all. The steering committee is chaired by Shayne Howe, a private sector representative but next year it will be chaired by Dax Basdeo as a government representative. This is an interesting arrangement that gives all parties an equal billing in the process.

Q:  Can you share a little bit about the process and the group you worked with in the Develop Talent Driver Group?

Mary:     Representatives were invited from the Ministry of Education, Portfolio of Internal & External Affairs, Cayman Islands Tourism Association, University College of the Cayman Islands, International College of the Cayman Islands, Sister Islands Tourism Association, Cayman Contractors Association, Cayman Finance, and Cayman Islands Human Resources Professionals. After the main introduction to the event, our group met privately, along with an independent facilitator. We discussed what our key driver meant for our Islands and then our professional perspective on the associated issues and possible solutions. From these discussions we developed three objectives and the enablers and actions to support these objectives.

At the end of the day, we presented the information to the entire group of forum participants and then our information was collected for collation. Because we were entirely focused on one subject we were able to accomplish a great deal in a comparatively short amount of time. Our findings along with the other driver groups’ findings are being compiled into a full report or a master plan for Cayman moving forward. This will be available as a public document within the next few weeks and posted to The website is not up and running as yet but we hope to have it live to correspond with the release of the report.

Q: What was the agreed strategic intent of the group?

Pat: We were given a strategic summary to keep us focused and to create some impetus for our discussions. We were then asked to refine it to an agreed message of clear strategic intent. The following was developed: Talent and workforce are key to a prosperous Cayman. We must examine the human capital development of the country, not only in support of current key operating industries, but also in preparation of future industries, as we, like many other nations, look to diversify.

Q: What were the three main objectives to come out of your group discussions?

Mary:    1) Ensure successful educational performance at every level – Develop Talent in the terms of education and opportunity is close to most people’s hearts. We want it for our children, for our community and for our workplace. A good education should be everybody’s right and that begins from the moment you enter the school system.

2)  Ensure employers have access to a skilled workforce – Without a skilled workforce we must continue to bring labour into our Islands to fill positions that we cannot fill. A skilled workforce is highly desirable to investors because it means a significant decrease in operating expenses.

3)  Create an environment that promotes lifelong learning – The world economy and life in general is evolving at an extraordinary rate and we need to keep up. The increasing pace of technological and economic change means we need a flexible and adaptable workforce that is ready to retrain to keep pace with the economy’s skills needs.

Q: What are the next steps for your driver group?

Pat:  As co-chairs of the driver group it is up to us to push for the successful follow through on the actions as outlined in our discussions. Supported by the steering committee, we will encourage all group members to start the process of fulfilling each listed action assigned to them. Some items will take longer than others, but all will have a measurable outcome that will allow us to follow progress.

Q: Do you see the Future of Cayman Forum as a sustainable proposition?

Mary:    As long as everybody plays their part there is no reason why the Future of Cayman Forum can’t be a lasting strategy for economic and community prosperity. The forum is designed to be an annual event that allows us to evaluate our progress on a regular basis over a number of years. Along with a mid-term report and quarterly updates we should be able to successfully monitor our movement towards our set objectives. Participants were selected by their respective associations or government departments as people qualified and experienced enough to make a valued contribution to this process on their behalf. It is not about names; it is about action and so even if the faces change, the actions and objectives will remain the same. It is the association, the authority, the ministry, the department making the decisions; not an individual and this means it is less likely to fail as a concept.

Q: How do you see yourself and your co-chair working with your committee to implement the plan and    to be sure that the time and energy you have invested benefit the future of our country?

Pat:    We have an excellent group of individuals representing a number of vital areas that will produce significant results towards our key objectives. Mary and I, as co-chairs, will maintain contact with our group members and receive regular updates on their progress and then this information will be shared with the steering committee. It will then be posted to the website where it can be viewed by the public. Our role is not only to contribute our own efforts to the successful completion of the agreed objectives, but also keep the momentum going throughout the year for our entire group.

Patricia Bell
Chief Human Resource Manager
Water Authority

Ms Bell joined the Water Authority in March 2005 as chief human resources manager. She began her career in the field of social work with the then Social Services Department and later the Education Department. She then made the transition into the human resources field, first in training and development with the Government Personnel Department and later into management with the Health Services Authority and Ansbacher (Cayman) Ltd.  
She has a Master of Education degree in Adult Education from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Social Work degree from the University of South Florida. Pat is a member and past director of the Cayman Islands Society of Human Resources Professionals and served on the Education Council for three years. She has supported and/or participated in various community projects and activities over the years and serves on the Chamber of Commerce Council.

Mary Rodrigues
Chief Officer
Ministry of Education, Training & Employment

Mrs. Rodrigues has worked within the Cayman Islands Civil Service for over 23 years. She worked within the local education system for 20 years, beginning as a high school teacher and progressing to a variety of posts, including head of English at both John Gray and George Hicks high schools, over a 10 year period. She then became part of a team of three that established a school inspection system for the Cayman Islands and progressed from the position of senior inspector to chief inspector of schools. She subsequently was promoted to the post of deputy chief officer in the Education Ministry. 

In 2006, Mrs. Rodrigues transferred to a new area within the civil service as chief officer designate then chief officer within the Portfolio of the Civil Service. One of her key projects during this period, which brought together her education and new strategic human resource management roles, was the establishment of a Civil Service college.

In May 2009, Mrs. Rodrigues returned to education as the chief officer in the Ministry responsible for Education, Training and Employment.

Mrs. Rodrigues’ formal qualifications include: an M Ed in International Management and Policy in Education from University of Birmingham; a BA in English Literature from Brock University; and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from Leeds University. Most recently she has become an alumnus of the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto where she has completed studies in Change Management and Advanced Human Resources Management.