As our publisher is fond of saying, the surest way to secure a commitment from a visiting job applicant is to take them out to Seven Mile Beach … and not utter a single word. Our beautiful beaches, warm weather, and family-friendly culture are our best recruiting tools.
And yet, once one goes beyond the initial attractions of Cayman, there are a number of impediments that can stymie even the most enthusiastic of prospective employees. Number one on that list is education.
The Education Law (2016) of the Cayman Islands mandates that all children (Caymanian or expatriate) who turn 5 years old by Sept. 1 must attend school until they are 17 or have received a diploma or its equivalent.
This presents what is becoming an intractable recruiting dilemma for businesses, namely:
1) Children of expatriate work permit holders are not allowed to attend public schools, and
2) There are virtually no vacancies in Cayman’s private schools.
Other possible options are not really options at all – such as homeschooling, hiring private tutors or sending children to boarding schools off-island.
As an employer, Pinnacle Media is intimately familiar with this issue. Several superb candidates who would bring significant skills and expertise to our operations cannot accept an offer of employment simply because there is no school (public or private) to educate their children. (For the absence of doubt, overseas candidates for these positions were pursued only after extensive “Caymanians first” recruitment campaigns proved unsuccessful.)
In fact, the school dilemma is having a major dampening effect on the ability of Cayman’s businesses to recruit mid-career professionals, many of whom are in their “prime childbearing years” and for whom access to excellent, and affordable, primary and secondary education is a top priority.
In lieu of employees with families looking to settle down, our expatriate population inevitably will shift toward younger, “more transient” individuals intending to alight in Cayman for a brief stay, as well as workers who are forced to leave children “back home” – where they end up remitting the lion’s share of their paychecks.
It is government’s fundamental responsibility to ensure that all children in Cayman have access to a quality education. It is nothing short of irresponsible for government to pass a compulsory school attendance law, while effectively denying expatriates entrance to the public education system paid for, in large part, through their taxes and fees.
At root, the issue has arisen over decades from the government’s ill-conceived segregation of the public school system, and the subsequent development of and dependence upon private school providers to educate the children of Cayman’s expatriates and well-to-do Caymanians.
There is a larger issue. A perusal of recent headlines in this newspaper reveals a too-common theme: Our schools are full, our court dockets are full, our prison is full, our landfill is full, our yet-to-be-completed new airport is already full (during peak travel periods), and we will not even begin on our overcrowded roadways.
Not all of this – but far too much of it – was foreseeable by successive governments which largely ignored the obvious.
But let us be positive: The challenges these islands will face, going forward, will consist largely of managing our growth – which is another way of saying managing our success.