To those interviewees who were in earnest, but disappointed: May you find fairer seas ahead.
But to the scores of “applicants-in-name-only” who didn’t respond to telephone calls or who made, then broke, appointments, we hold you up collectively as the latest exhibit of evidence refuting the popular narrative that expatriates are “stealing” jobs from Caymanians in the tourism industry.
A more compelling narrative is that far too many out-of-work Caymanians are not qualified for the jobs they say they want, and do not want the jobs for which they are actually qualified.
Notwithstanding the best efforts from members of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, local business leaders surely cannot be surprised by the poor return on their investment of time and resources. “Six for 102” (the number of successful job placements, compared to the number of initial participants in October’s employment drive) is merely the latest data point depicting the National Workforce Development Agency’s overall record of ineffectiveness.
Broach the subject of the NWDA with any Cayman employer, and chances are you’ll hear weary (or even angry) tales of being on the receiving end of error-filled resumes from individuals who are ill-suited for the positions advertised. Executives have little time in their schedules to participate in this ongoing charade.
Here’s the rub: The NWDA is largely limited to polishing clients for job interviews they set up. That does nothing to address underlying fundamental issues of education and attitude, which have worked to shape the individual long before the NWDA even existed.
Yet, Cayman governments continue to put pressure on local employers to “take one for the team,” so to speak, and sacrifice payroll spots for people who can’t or won’t deliver satisfactory performances.
CITA President Ken Hydes sums up the business community’s perspective: “The reality is the employers are reaching out. If the people don’t meet the criteria, I can’t expect them to hire them, especially if they are not doing their part and returning phone calls.”
On its face, it simply does not make financial or logical sense for an employer — when having to decide whether to hire an expatriate or an equally qualified Caymanian — to hire the expatriate.
The cost in time and dollars of hiring foreign workers borders on prohibitive: In most instances, overseas candidates must be identified, recruited, and relocated to Cayman. Work permit fees are exorbitantly high, even confiscatory. Though improved, the process of securing permits from the Immigration Department is one that no employer looks forward to.
And yet, we have approximately 20,000 work permits in place and an estimated 2,000 so-called unemployed Caymanians. What is the disconnect? Why would any sane employer prefer foreign workers to qualified, motivated Caymanians?
The short answer is they wouldn’t. It might make for good politics to proclaim that Caymanians are out of work because they are being “discriminated against” by foreign employers. But the problem with that argument is most employers aren’t foreign; they are Caymanian. (Recall that most businesses must have at least “60 percent” Caymanian ownership).
In other words: Caymanians aren’t hiring Caymanians.
Yes, there will always be stories of qualified Caymanians — some of whom have even graduated from universities abroad — who still cannot find employment in their home country. Certain politicians who find their way to talk radio regularly retell those anecdotes, and we have no doubt that some of those tales are true.
But they’re not the central issue. We do not believe that Caymanians (or foreigners here) are so prejudiced they would choose to go through the rigmarole described above to avoid hiring Caymanians.
Speaking “from home,” more than 70 percent of Pinnacle Media’s employees are Caymanian. Their performance equals or exceeds that of our expatriate staff. Our standards are high, we pay them well, and we truly value them and their contributions. Frankly, we’d like even more.
But, for the record, not one of them was ever sent our way by NWDA — or any other government agency.