World Bank says many workers are underskilled for jobs in the Caribbean
BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS — Employers are having a hard time filling a growing demand for skilled workers in the Caribbean, according to a new report released by the World Bank.
This is largely due to the ongoing skills gap in the region, which has been a challenge for decades, and high percentages of migration, it said.
In its regional private sector diagnostic (RPSD), “Promoting private sector-led growth to foster recovery and resilience in the Caribbean,” the World Bank undertook studies in 12 regional countries that it said have similar cultures, languages, geographies and economic and development challenges.
The countries, referred to in the report as “the CARI-12 states,” include: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
“There is increasing demand in the region for workers with both technical and soft skills — such as critical thinking, problem-solving and socio-emotional skills,” the World Bank said in its diagnostic report.
“But meeting [that demand] is a challenge…
“Many workers are underskilled relative to the requirements of their jobs.”
Candidates are not meeting job requirements
The RPSD described that employers seeking to fill vacancies are looking for specific skillsets.
However, job candidates and even those who may already be employed are failing to meet these standards, it said.
“In the Bahamas, a 2019 skills gap survey19 highlighted shortcomings in literacy, numeracy, problem-solving, teamwork and other soft skills as among the gaps noted by employers when hiring potential employees.
“In Barbados, an assessment of the skills required for green jobs identified a major shortage of individuals qualified for the design and installation of solar photovoltaic facilities and energy auditors.
“In Belize, employers voiced an interest in recruiting more workers with digital-transformation, critical-thinking and socio-emotional skills.
“In Saint Lucia, employers listed communication skills (91 percent), strong work ethic (71 percent) and adaptability (61.5 percent) as the most valued features they look for in employees, but deemed most employees to be lacking in soft skills (such as customer service), technical skills and basic skills (such as literacy).
“Finally, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a 2021 survey identified customer service, communication and information and communication technology (ICT) literacy as the most sought-after skills, but also as the areas where the workforce is most in need of training.”
The World Bank emphasized that “enhancing the competitiveness of the workforce requires improving” the skills gap.
To this end, it recommended that CARI-12 states in particular launch public-private partnerships to “reduce mismatch” between skills that are in-demand and those that are provided through local training programmes.