EDITORIAL – When 98 percent of NWDA clients are ‘not work ready’ …

Assessments of Caymanian job-seekers who register with the National Workforce Development Agency:

  • High school diploma or less – 82 percent
  • Skills that are in low-to-moderate demand – 81 percent
  • Unable to obtain good letters of reference – 69 percent
  • Insufficient skills training – 68 percent
  • Lack of skill with numbers – 58 percent
  • Poor job interview skills – 51 percent
  • Reasons for previous termination – 44 percent
  • Mental health issues – 29 percent
  • Illiteracy – 21 percent
  • Substance abuse – 19 percent
  • Alcohol abuse – 18 percent
  • Criminal record – 11 percent
  • Problems with “perseverance” – 96 percent
  • Total defined as “not work ready” – 98 percent.

As you can see, the prospects of employment for the out-of-work Caymanian population are (pick your own description) “not pretty,” “challenging” or “grim.”

According to a government committee report, 72 percent of employers looking at the same picture cite “lack of skills” as a reason for not hiring a Caymanian at some point in the past. Most importantly, 61 percent of employers considered a job seeker’s attitude to be an important factor in making the decision not to hire.

Let’s put this subject into perspective. First, the overwhelming majority of Caymanians are not only employable – they’re employed. According to the most recent data available, the unemployment rate for Caymanian workers stands at 6.2 percent, the lowest since the global financial crisis of 2008-2010.

Put another way, 93.8 percent of Caymanian workers who wish to work are employed. What does that statistic do to the argument that Caymanians are unemployed because of “discrimination?”

As the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Employment phrased it, “[T]here is a lack of competitiveness among a small segment of the Caymanian labour force that is beset with challenges that hamper their long-term employment prospect, which require government attention and investment in terms of training and development.”

While the majority of the report is dedicated to hard numbers, quantifiable survey results and analysis, it also contains sections alleging cultural bias among local employers, based only on speculation and allusions to anonymous “anecdotal evidence.”

Let’s pause here. “Anecdotal evidence” is not evidence at all. Anecdotal evidence is what we hear on morning talk-radio shows and in anonymous blogs to websites. It certainly should not be referenced in a serious report.

Employment Minister Tara Rivers has managed to identify – by way of championing it – perhaps the most damaging recommendation of all, which is to force employers to publish, through NWDA, information on all their positions currently filled by work permit holders. As Ms. Rivers knows, this information is already shared, confidentially, with government.

The idea is that if Caymanians know what work permits are “coming due,” they will be able to prepare themselves in advance to take those positions.

Such a proposal may sound good to government bureaucrats, but applying it to the private sector would be non-productive, ineffective and anti-competitive. Simply put, Butterfield Bank has no business knowing the work permit situation at Cayman National Bank – or vice versa. This anti-business proposal should be a call to arms for the private sector, beginning with the Chamber of Commerce with Cayman Finance not far behind.

As nearly everyone knows, education – not government coercion – is the antidote to unemployment.

In the Cayman government, however, we have an additional issue: Ms. Rivers has ministerial responsibilities for both employment AND education.

It’s bad enough when the proverbial “left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” but when both hands belong to the same minister, we have a considerable problem on OUR hands.



  1. Environmental exposure has a lot to do with our children’s performance.
    What has happened in the past thirty five years, is that most companies , restaurants, hotels and others, are all operated by foreign Managers/Bosses . The passive Caymanian take a much longer time adjusting to this new way of aggressive approach to customer service. They were brought up from home and schools to be in a passive slow mood, which when faced with the quick fast paced world of tourist and visitors, they cant keep the pace.
    If you check students who have had the gracious opportunity of spending some years abroad and come back, they fit in perfectly; just because they were forced to adapt in the fast paced quick thinking environment .
    The key to success in these areas is to allow your child this opportunity of exposure, and all governments should assist parents with children who are eager for this training also, because unfairly they are being looked upon as not vigilant enough just because of the slow paced on island background; which is not fair to them.

  2. While it is sad that those described might be “lost” much of the blame for why they are lost falls on Government! Poor schools, poor standards, poor training and I could go on and on. Lets remember that this Govt continues to Segregate students in school in this country (something they did not suffer from) which will continue to push the unfortunate down even lower.

    It is sad!

    • Mr Boddens point caught my eye because I’ve always wondered why the schools were segregated which to me means most Caymanian children are going to the same schools everyone is complaining about while Expats are forced to send their children to private schools where they get better educations and are in the long run better prepared to compete in the workforce.

      Combining the different cultures and ways of life may just benefit the children more than keeping them shielded from the outside world…

  3. Twyla, J Bodden and Michael. You are all correct.

    When I first moved here over 34 years ago “soon come” was almost the national motto. And it was FINE. Now people get angry about a 2 second delay at traffic lights.

    I think many tourists also enjoyed the slower pace of life.

    But at the same time we have all got used to a higher level of efficiency.

    I agree it is wrong to segregate children in school. And better education is 90% of the answer for most of our youth employment problems. Could the government give scholarships to bright students so they could attend private schools?

    Could the government give more further education scholarships?

    As I have said before another issue is the fact that welfare payments of about $9 CI an hour are higher than many low wage jobs. What is the incentive then to find a low paid job?
    One possible answer might be a minimum wage higher than welfare payments. Another might be to increase the work permit fee on low paid jobs thus reducing the difference between the total employment costs for Caymanian versus imported labor.
    But both of these answers would increase employers wage bills and result in higher prices. For groceries, lawn care, restaurants and hotels.
    Would it be worth it?

  4. I still believe every child should be professionally evaluated for potential specific learning difficulties and his/her education adjusted accordingly. All children have disadvantages in one area or another which can be easily corrected at an early age. 2 of my friend’s kids were diagnosed with dyslexia for example and after they had attended special programs they are now no different than other kids. This country can afford to invest in its future.
    You think some people just slow when in fact they might have some learning difficulties such as processing speed, dyslexia, visual and auditory memory problems et. It can be addressed at any age.

  5. The problem is catchment. How can people end school without basic skills and I have seen this first hand with basic maths skills that a 10 year old should know much less and adult.

    We really need to stop kids from advancing once they can’t manage basic maths and English skills test. These kids need to be aligned to additional tutoring.

    I believe the lower sets focus should be advancement not just to have them pass current level exams.

    I can only hope this assessment opens some eyes to the issues we have on the lower end.

  6. Don’t you just love the implication that it is the schools that are at fault?
    Education starts and ends at home. Youngsters need to be encouraged to learn and they need positive role models in their lives. They need books to be read to and with them. They need to be taught respect.
    These are not issues that only appear in Cayman, they are symptoms of a malaise that affects large swathes of the world and symptoms that will only be dealt with by proper parenting.


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