The survey of displaced tourism workers currently receiving the government stipend will also serve as a skills assessment to help link them with job and training opportunities, Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan has said.
With vaccinations rates increasing and the prospect of the borders reopening ahead of the traditional high season in November, industry insiders predict there could be as many as 5,000 job openings.
Though uncertainty remains over the exact timing and conditions of reopening, Bryan said government is aiming to ensure that as many Caymanians as possible are positioned to fill their share of those roles when tourists do return.
He acknowledged the pandemic had been devastating for tourism businesses. But he said it was also a chance to rethink and reflect on long-held concerns about the under-representation of local people in the industry.
“Recognising that we don’t have enough people to fill all of the positions in respect to tourism, there was still a feeling that there is not enough Caymanians at the forefront of the industry,” he said.
Bryan said the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and key employers were supportive of a strategy of training and recruiting Caymanians. He said it was vital for the islands’ economy that those who had lost employment amid tourism’s decline were the first to get opportunities when it returns – even if that means switching from one sector of the industry to another.
The $1,500 monthly stipend will be reduced to $750 from November, in part to incentivise people to take opportunities that come up.
Information from the survey will go to CITA and to WORC to help them target programmes and job openings to those that are out of work.
Bryan said government is currently spending $5.3 million a month on the stipends and up to $80 million per year on various COVID-related unemployment benefits. He said these were designed as temporary measures that would need to be carefully wound down as part of a process of getting displaced Caymanians back into jobs as tourism resumes.
He acknowledged there would always be a need for work permits in the tourism industry, given the size of the labour force, but there would be benefits for the jurisdiction in attracting a greater proportion of Cayman talent, he said.
“We haven’t done a good enough job of marketing the industry to our people,” he said, “We have to talk to our population of school leavers and teach them that tourism can be an amazing career opportunity.”