Job training and further education courses offered to government workers through the Cayman Islands Civil Service College should be made available to Caymanians only, North Side MLA Ezzard Miller said last week.
Mr. Miller’s comments were made during a review of the government budget in Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee during which he questioned the costs of training and educating non-Caymanian government workers who would eventually “take their knowledge with them.”
“Why are non-Caymanians allowed to take advantage of the civil service college?” Mr. Miller asked.
“They are civil servants. This is a civil service college,” Deputy Governor Franz Manderson replied. “I don’t see how I can stop someone from trying to upskill themselves while they’re here.”
Andrea Fa’amoe of the Portfolio of the Civil Service explained during the committee’s hearing that Caymanians made up about 75 percent of the students taking courses offered at the civil service college, including those offered through UCCI. Registrants for the associate-level degree courses in public administration this year – taken by more than 400 people – were about 62 percent Caymanian, Ms. Fa’amoe said.
“We’re doing our best to ensure that Caymanians take this opportunity,” Mr. Manderson said. “[The courses] are free [for civil servants], you can do most of this online. There’s really no excuse for anyone not taking up these courses.”
The deputy governor said he planned to make it mandatory in the government’s upcoming budget year for Caymanian civil service managers of a certain rank to take customer service and leadership courses through the college.
Mr. Miller objected to the idea of government spending $200 per non-Caymanian civil servant to take a civil service college course, especially if they were “pushing out” Caymanians from taking the class. Mr. Manderson said Caymanians were given first opportunity and that most of the courses were held during non-work hours.
“A lot of those persons are already skilled up for their jobs but they want to acquire new skills, additional skills in other areas,” Mr. Manderson said.
“Does the deputy governor not see that as unfair competition for Caymanians who are competing to move up the ladder?” Mr. Miller asked. “We brought one here in 1990 for [a] six months contract and he’s still here. And he’s been moving up the ladder, his ladder is long as Jacob’s [referring to the staircase to heaven described in Genesis].
“I have great difficulty when we are using our limited resources to provide training for people who are going to take their knowledge with them. That is a wasted investment, by any stretch of the imagination.”
Mr. Manderson said he was uncertain it would be legal to exclude non-Caymanian government workers from taking civil service college courses, given the anti-discrimination clauses now within the Cayman Islands Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
Finance Minister Marco Archer did not support the idea of banning non-Caymanians from taking the courses, but wondered whether basic math and reading courses could be expanded to Caymanians who do not currently work for the civil service and who wished to improve their lot in life.
“It would be a wonderful opportunity for people earning minimum wage or something out there if they could upskill themselves via the government’s program at a significantly reduced price,” Mr. Archer said.