Vincy Workplace
July 31, 2014
When Caribbean workers leave the region

Every employer with a vacant position for more than three months understands the impact of the massive brain drain that the Caribbean islands are experiencing. It’s a fact that many third world companies can not compete with the salaries and benefits that foreign countries offer, but all hope is not lost.{{more}}

People who migrate to other countries do so to further their own education or that of their children, gain access to a better health care system and to receive higher compensation. The larger countries like the US, Canada and the United Kingdom that are the primary recipients of Caribbean nationals also offer immigrants the opportunity to reinvent themselves and achieve anything they set their mind to.

How does the Caribbean compete?

Youth education. Young people are easily dazzled by the bright lights and promise of opportunity in the larger countries. It gives them a chance to hope, to improve their lives, as this segment of the population suffers from the highest level of unemployment. Government and the private sector need to begin to pour resources into providing more educational and employment opportunities for the young people. If they are to stay and help develop their country, they will need a reason, but if they are hampered by concerns of finding a daily meal, they will jump at the first available chance to leave. Once young people are hired, they must be engaged and given continuous chances to improve themselves. Training dollars should not just be reserved for senior level officials, but should be heavily invested into the next generation, as they must learn how to compete globally. Young workers also feel that their input is not valid and the thought of advancing seems unrealistic, as there are no structured grooming programs to usher in the next generation.

The government needs to get involved and offer more attractive salaries to teachers. The children are our most precious resources and each student must have access to competent teachers who themselves know how to be enthusiastic and are big dreamers. A teacher who can barely make ends meet on his/her salary will find it difficult to instill a sense of pride in his country.

Company consortium.
Companies need to get creative in their approach to attracting and retaining qualified applicants back to the region. People who leave are accustomed to a certain level of intellectual stimulation, through the arts, networking or career support. A return to the Caribbean can leave them feeling isolated. If companies banded together to provide this support, it will make returning home a bit more attractive and it will also provide locals who never left a chance to interact on a different level.

Expatriates’ sabbatical.
There are many expatriates currently residing in the US, Canada and UK who would be open to the idea of returning home for a year or two to offer their expertise. There are also expatriates who have returned home to retire and would love to stay active in their field. Although it’s only a short-term solution, it’s one worth exploring. Companies have to think out of the box in addressing these concerns. For too long companies have been trying on their own with little or no success.

The brain drain will never stop as long as there are other places offering higher salaries and better benefits, but Caribbean islands can learn to cope and come up with creative solutions.

Karen Hinds is “The Workplace Success Expert.”
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