Anyone currently unemployed and actively seeking work in the Cayman Islands should be required to register their name and employment qualifications with government’s workforce agency, Chamber of Commerce President Barry Bodden said Friday.
Mr. Bodden, whose comments were made at the opening of the Chamber’s annual careers expo, said the organization has noted “continued debate” on stated numbers of unemployed Caymanians and legal island residents, versus those who are actually registered with the National Workforce Development Agency.
“To correct this situation, we feel it is time to require all unemployed workers to register with the NWDA and to provide these individuals with customized attention to assess their existing skills and any barriers they may have to work or career readiness,” Mr. Bodden said.
The Cayman Compass reported that as of October, more Cayman Islands businesses were registered with the National Workforce Development Agency than were unemployed or underemployed Caymanian workers.
Those figures came from Premier Alden McLaughlin during an address lauding the workforce development agency’s efforts in finding employment for 179 people between July 2013 and October 2014.
According to the government office of Economics and Statistics, more than 1,800 Caymanians remained unemployed in the most recent labor force survey. However, well below half of those said to be jobless had registered with the NWDA.
National Workforce Development Agency officials have said that approximately 800 Caymanians were registered with the agency at last count. The number includes unemployed Caymanians, those who are considered “underemployed” – part-time workers seeking full-time jobs – and those who already have full-time work but who are seeking a new job.
Currently, the NWDA does not require all businesses to register with the agency, but that may change in the near future.
Premier McLaughlin, in a statement released last week, said: “The National Workforce Development Agency should become the national clearing house for jobs, giving job seekers, immigration, labor and employers a completely transparent view of the employment situation and allowing Caymanians access to opportunities that would otherwise become work permits.”
The government also put out bids this weekend for a computerized data system for the Immigration Department that seeks to list all open positions for both private and public sector jobs, which any legal resident of the Cayman Islands can view. Once the computerized system goes online, any business applying for a work permit will be able to do so at any time. It is envisioned that applicants for various immigration services will also be able to pay fees online around the clock.
Mr. Bodden said workforce development would be one of the Chamber’s top priorities in 2015.
“We must address the issue of youth unemployment, particularly with those under 25,” he said. “The NWDA should be allowed to send these individuals to external training agencies … such as the Chamber’s Professional Development and Training Center.”
Meanwhile, for the first time in more than a year, the number of work permits currently held by non-Caymanians has surged above the 21,000 mark in January, according to data supplied by the Cayman Islands Immigration Department.
The total number of work permits held in Cayman on Jan. 22, including government contracts and workers awaiting word on permanent residence applications, was 21,403. That’s up 8 percent from the same time a year ago and up 5 percent from the last time the Cayman Compass measured the statistics in July.
According to records obtained by the Compass under the Freedom of Information Law, the number of work permits has risen steadily throughout the year, increasing by more than 1,600 permits.