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The Bahamian youth in a global village


Published: Oct 30, 2013

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The link between education and true emancipation from economic, social, political and physical bondage was well articulated by Frederick Douglass when he stated that “knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave”.  While some references substitute the word knowledge with (true) education, the essence of this timeless quote resonates from one generation to another.

As the curtains are drawn on National Youth Month 2013, there is no doubt that the education of an individual is not constrained to the physical classroom in which a teacher instructs a student.  In these modern times, the delivery of formal education has become sophisticated to the point that one can pursue and attain a postgraduate qualification from an institution while not being physically present in the country in which the institution is domiciled.  In this sense, the barriers to education are often limited to the will and determination to progress as well as access to the requisite resources.

Exposure, education and opportunities

In today’s Bahamian society, more and more individuals are taking advantage of higher education both locally and abroad.  However, the significant challenge of limited funding still confronts our aspiring young people in their quest to obtain higher education.  The preparation for professional success by the Bahamian youth is also impeded by the limited level of exposure that upcoming professionals embrace or are afforded.  It is becoming clearer by the day that formal education alone in the conventional sense will not be the sole determinant in an individual’s progress and success in life; especially in the workplace.  In this sense, the crucial role of opportunity and exposure cannot be overemphasized.

Although many Bahamians have taken advantage of the opportunity to pursue higher education, some still find themselves disenfranchised due to their lack of exposure.  A classic example can be found within the financial services and tourism sectors where Bahamians are sometimes deemed not to be adequately qualified to lead key posts within certain organizations.  It is not unexpected for institutions and/or their shareholders to protect their investments; however, it is also not unforeseeable that Bahamians with the requisite experience, education and exposure are recruited to fill pivotal roles that would otherwise have required expatriates.  Indeed the result of a recent survey by the Association of International Banks and Trust Companies in The Bahamas is a testament to this fact.  The survey showed that Bahamians made up 80 percent of total employees, 66 percent of management, 48 percent of executives and 52 percent at the highest levels within the institutions surveyed.

Attainable heights for the youth

The perception that the highest levels of leadership within an international organization, either based in The Bahamas or outside The Bahamas, is beyond our reach but within the grasp of others is nothing but a myth.  While we acknowledge the reality is that there are insufficient fully Bahamian-owned businesses within either of the aforementioned sectors to accommodate the Bahamian workforce, our zenith cannot be determined by the ownership structure of organizations within our archipelago.

As The Bahamas continues to evolve and is absorbed into the emerging global village where investment opportunities abound for multinational corporations and international investors, the competition for labor will intensify.  The Bahamas must seek to maintain its edge in the global arena and attract viable and sustainable foreign direct investment while ensuring the professional advancement and preparedness of its citizens.

A modernized Bahamianization policy

The Bahamianization policy in its raw form was relevant at the time of introduction and served its purpose at the time it was instituted.  The leaders of the day saw the need to improve the economic status of Bahamians and consequently ensured that there was a process in place that made higher paying and more sophisticated jobs available to Bahamians.

Bahamianization continues to occupy an important place in today’s context; however, the policy must be further revised and enhanced to address and meet the demands of the 21st century.  The policy should address the current needs and dynamics of The Bahamas with specific attention being given to young Bahamians both home and abroad who would like an opportunity to progress in their country.

The policy among other things, basically states that where there is no Bahamian identified to fill a post, a work permit can be issued to a foreign worker with the condition that a Bahamian will be identified for training with a view to filling such a post in the future.  This policy has been widely accepted by successive governments, foreign investors and organizations over the years.  The reality on the ground is that foreign workers who migrate to The Bahamas usually would have had extensive work experience that extend beyond their home countries in multiple jurisdictions where their employers would have had branches or subsidiaries.  They effectively come in to compete with an advantage over the average Bahamian worker.

Discovering the global landscape

In cases where Bahamians have the opportunity to train under an expatriate in anticipation of filling senior roles in future, he/she still more than likely did not have the opportunity to travel abroad and receive sufficient training and exposure outside of The Bahamas.  In this regard, it is arguable, that Bahamians who school or train abroad may have an opportunity and advantage to take on leadership roles upon their return home over and above the individuals who have not.

Consequently, more must be done to ensure that foreign investors provide more opportunities for cross-training and work exchange programs across several jurisdictions in which they have affiliates or presence.  Within the financial services industry, there is a great opportunity for such an initiative which will not only broaden the exposure of our youth to other cultures but could also yield the benefit of learning an additional language.  It is accepted that it is not the responsibility of the organizations to ensure that their Bahamian workers are multilingual; hence, we must take our destinies into our own hands with a commitment to ongoing personal and professional development and advancement.

The future is in our hands

In the final analysis, we must take responsibility not only for our future but for the future of our Bahamaland.  While the government must implement policies that create an environment that is conducive for the achievement of the Bahamian Dream, we must be mindful that national borders and barriers are falling with the execution of international agreements.  We must therefore be prepared for opportunities at home and abroad; ready to take on key roles globally and export the knowledge and expertise that we have successfully distinguished ourselves in.  This writer is convinced that with the right education, exposure and mentoring, Bahamian youth are well equipped for the road ahead and the future is in our hands.

• Comments on this article can be directed at a.s.komolafe510@gmail.com.

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