“What we see happening in the BVI now on a broad scale, is no one expected the BVI to turn around so quickly and for the economy to be so robust,” Minister Wheatley said during the Virgin Islands Party’s (VIP) Let’s Talk radio show last evening.
The Minister said the result of this was the unprecedented decision by many businesses to recruit persons at the same time.
He added that because of the BVI’s small labour pool, many persons are forced to seek labour from the outside for their businesses.
“We cannot import all the labour and have our local persons sitting at home. It is always important to us in Labour that we seek out the locals who may be able to fill these positions before we send them to the outside. Hence sometimes we have a delay in processing work permits,” Wheatley said.
The minister insisted that it was not the case that the system was slow, but instead, the department was simply doing its due diligence to ensure that it was not giving away jobs that locals can do.
According to Wheatley, in the frenzy and fit to hire persons, the easiest thing to do would be to approve all work permits, noting that a lot of persons would be happy about this.
“But what about the local person sitting on that corner who can mop that floor for you, who can DJ for you, who can mix that drink for you, who can be a waiter for you? Do we not give them a chance?” Wheatley questioned.
He reiterated his praise for the Education Ministry’s Labour-Education Connect initiative where training must be provided for locals and said this will be taken to the next level.
“We must give our people a fighting chance in their own country and I stand by that. And I make no apology absolutely for saying that. I will always say we must stand by our people to make sure they get every advantage to make a living in their own country,” he added.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Dr Natalio Wheatley added his support for the Labour Minister, noting that even though persons might say that there is an absence of qualified labour or that some locals are unwilling to work, these critics need to be part of the solution.
Dr Wheatley said several entities have been engaged in collecting data to examine gaps in skillset within the labour force in order to facilitate some of the needed training at the local H Lavity Stoutt Community College (HLSCC).
He said there will also be apprenticeships on offer to help persons to identify suitable labour that can be further trained and developed to help to facilitate the labour needs of the economy.
Dr Wheatley said this will be better for everyone and will result in more spending, less unemployment, and a reduction in the potential and likelihood of unemployed persons committing crimes.