BPSU president Jason Hayward.
BPSU president Jason Hayward.

In 2000, when I was at the tender age of 18, the unemployment rate in Bermuda was recorded at a low of three per cent. 

Fourteen years later, the unemployment rate in Bermuda is hovering around the seven per cent mark. 

In 2013, roughly 2,600 individuals were unemployed out of a total labour force of 38,558. With that realized, I truly believe that the Government should make addressing the unemployment crisis a priority.  

There are three basic kinds of unemployment — cyclical, frictional, and structural. 

Cyclical unemployment is described as joblessness due to inadequate demand or lack of available jobs.  

Frictional unemployment is described as joblessness due to those persons who are between jobs.  

Frictional unemployment arises from normal turnover in the labour market and the fact that finding a job takes time. 

Structural unemployment is joblessness that results from the mismatch between skills and qualifications that employers demand and the skills and qualifications that workers possess. 

Bermuda is plagued with structural unemployment. This form of unemployment cannot be easily overcome. 

However, I believe that through education, training and creating access to jobs we can help solve our unemployment issue.

In 1779, Adam Smith, a Scottish moral philosopher and economist, observed that the capital stock of a nation consists partly in: the acquired and useful abilities of all inhabitants or members of the society. 

The acquisition of such talents, by the maintenance of the acquirer during his education, study or apprenticeship, always costing a real expense, which is a capital fixed and realizes, as it were, in his person. 

Those talents, as they make a part of his fortune, so do they likewise of that of the society to which he belongs. 

While those words were written many moons ago, they still hold true today. We, as a country, must commit to investing in the education and job training of our citizens. 

Investment

This investment will undoubtedly benefit the equipped individuals and Bermuda at large.  

This will realign the skill sets and qualifications demanded by employers with those possessed by the unemployed.  

I am calling on the Government to commit to providing adequate funding for post-secondary education. And to correct the current problems with our education system at pre-college levels; namely problems associated with administration, finance, curriculum and quality of delivery.

On-the-job training must also become a national priority. While formal education may provide background skills and enhanced learning, much of the specific skills related to actual productivity are acquired on the shop floor. Businesses must commit to apprenticeship programmes, professional development and workplace shadowing. 

This would enable Bermudians to acquire skill sets that are not gained through formal education, but on-the-job training. 

These on-the-job training programs have become a standard in many developed countries throughout the world. 

 Government must also commit to reducing barriers that exist for individuals accessing jobs. 

Government can do a variety of things in this regard. Government can:

* Require that employers provide adequate notice to workers who are to be made redundant so that the workers can have time to search for new positions,

* Develop and publicize projections of the future demand for different occupations so that students are equipped with information to make informed career decisions, and

* Improve or enhance the role of the Department of Workforce Development so that it is a standard meeting place to appropriately match job seekers and potential employers. 

In addition, I am calling on the Government to address the reported disparate treatment and discriminatory practices by employers against Bermudians.  

The Government must tackle this issue head on, for far too long employers have been allowed to get away with setting rigorous qualifications and tests for new job openings primarily to discourage Bermudians. 

Additionally, some employers show a complete bias towards guest workers over Bermudians.  

Once Government truly commits to education, training and providing access to jobs, then and only then will we see the end to Bermuda’s structural unemployment crisis. I have said it in previous articles and I will say it again, we must educate our way out of this economic storm. I would rather we try and fail, then to never try at all. n

Jason Hayward is president of the Bermuda Public Services Union.