Survey to assess workforce need
A new partnership between the BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association and several government ministries aims to assess workforce needs in the territory. Photo: CLAIRE SHEFCHIK

Tourism is once again in full swing in the Virgin Islands, but staffing remains a key concern for businesses struggling to get back on their feet after the pandemic shutdowns, according to Keiyia Jackson-George, executive director of the BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association.

“I get a lot of complaints that, number one, they want to hire local, but they can’t hire local,” Ms. Jackson-George said on Tuesday during a stakeholder meeting at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. “And they can’t hire local because they’re not finding a local that has the skill set that they need. So therefore, they have to get a work permit, but the work permit is taking too long. And they may have to temporarily close or reduce hours. Because the longer that they stay open without the staff that they need to do the job, the more money is lost.”

A new survey set to launch next month aims to use data in order to tackle the problem. Meanwhile, she said, the cost of doing business continues to rise. Global supply chain issues have resulted in skyrocketing costs for some goods that businesses need to function. Inflation is up 2.1 percent so far this year, according to figures obtained in September from the Central Statistics Bureau.

“The supply chain is broken: When the supply chain is broken, that’s when that loss is costing them,” Ms. Jackson-George said, adding, “On top of all of that, they don’t have the workforce that they need or the skilled workforce that they need in order to do the job. So that’s why we have them all come together to partner to try to meet this need to try to assess what the needs are to implement things and put things in place to meet these needs.”
To assess the territory’s workforce needs, a new survey conducted by the BVICCHA in partnership is set to launch next month with the Ministry of Natural Resources, Labour and Im migration and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture.

Dr. Karl Dawson, a consultant to the education ministry on the survey process, said that ministers want to focus in part on “strengthening the connections between education and labour.” He added that the first phase of the survey will consist of industry-specific working groups, scheduled to meet later this week, followed by the survey itself.
He noted that aside from collecting new information, a main focus of the survey project will be figuring out how to best make use of the data already collected by the Department of Labour and Workforce Development.

“Persons come to the Labour Department to seek employment,” he said. “Persons who need employees also have to pass through the Labour Department. And when we look at it, there is a lot of information that they have right now, but we are not gathering and processing that data. For instance, we hear from employers, ‘These are the skill gaps; these are the persons you sent us for an interview, but these are the areas that they seem to be lacking.’”