JIS News

Labour and Social Security Minister, Derrick Kellier, has said that all jobs, for which work permits have been requested by foreign nationals, would be advertised in the local newspapers and on the Ministry’s Electronic Labour Exchange website, so as to allow Jamaicans an improved chance to gain employment.
“This requirement is a recent administrative decision of the Ministry. It was taken to improve the efficiency of the work permit system and to minimise the possibility of local workers being denied the opportunity to access these jobs,” he said.
Minister Kellier, who was responding to questions posed by Opposition Member of Parliament for Clarendon South Eastern, Senator Rudyard Spencer, in the House of Representatives yesterday (Sept. 26), said that since the implementation of this decision, the Ministry has been in consultations with companies applying for work permits and every effort was being made to ensure compliance.
The Minister noted however, that the size of some of the construction projects being undertaken by foreign-based companies and the large number of workers with the appropriate competencies required “makes it necessary for there to be an expeditious, flexible and efficient recruitment process.”
To this end, he disclosed that the Ministry and the companies have arrived at an agreement to attract the skills required, while not excluding locally qualified persons.
The agreed methods, he informed, include collaborating with the HEART Trust/NTA for the training and identification of suitably qualified workers, and also establishing employment windows at construction sites accessible to all workers.
Elaborating, Minister Kellier pointed out that “language is also an important issue where foreign investors and contractors do not speak English. Sometimes, persons with bilingual competencies are needed at certain phases in the development process.”
“It is also important to recognise that these development projects have to be consistent with international standards. Some are carried out with strict adherence to warranty requirements. One would therefore appreciate the need for persons with the requisite skills and experience, which may not always be available locally,” he added.
According to the Labour and Social Security Minister, some 3,245 work permits have been granted to foreign nationals up to August of this year, while a total of 5,182 permits were issued by the government last year.
He indicated that work permits were issued for engineers, architects, quantity surveyors, accountants, economists, site managers, finance and administrative managers, construction quality technicians, electro-mechanical technicians, and extraction and building trade workers.
When asked about the countries of origin and number of foreign nationals employed for the construction of the Bahia Principe Hotel in St. Ann and the stadium being constructed in Sligoville, St. Catherine, Mr. Kellier replied that 888 persons were granted permits to work at the hotel site, while another 66 were issued permits for the stadium. The migrant workers, he said, hailed from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Spain, Peru, the United States and Venezuela.
As for the measures that were being implemented to train locals, Mr. Kellier informed the House that his Ministry “is keen on ensuring that the maximum level of ‘transfer of knowledge’ or on-the-job training takes place on the various construction sites”.
He revealed that HEART was undertaking a reform of its training programme, with training being guided by an analysis of supply and demand in the labour market and focusing on areas of the economy that generate investment and employment.
“The training currently offered by HEART is aimed at developing a more qualified and competent workforce equipped to take advantage of higher quality jobs that these investments may generate,” Minister Kellier said.
Some 3,000 higher level construction workers are being trained by HEART, in response to new investments in the tourism, hospitality and bauxite sectors.
Enrollment in hospitality training through HEART, Mr. Kellier revealed, has increased from 11,375 persons in 2004/2005 to 17,042 in 2005/2006, while the training agency is now on an active drive to certify competencies in several sectors, including the construction industry.