Coming to Barbados, a small island Nation, investors are usually pleasantly surprised at the high level of skills available in the local workforce.
Historically, Barbadians have always placed great emphasis on education. This emphasis is encouraged by Government policies and facilitations, which provide free primary and secondary level education and free university education for nationals at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.
The resulting depth and breath of educated talent is borne out by the fact that the UN Human Development Department Index 2009 ranks Barbados third in the Americas (only after Canada and the USA) and thirty-seventh globally in respect of educational attainment, as measured by adult literacy and enrolments at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
Having worked in various aspects of the International Business Sector and having worked as a local and regional recruiter, both for over twenty-five years, I can attest to the quality of the talent available. This is also evidenced by the fact that the International Business Sector currently employs approximately four thousand Barbadian Nationals. They are successfully employed in a range of occupations — from data entry to financial services executives and traders on international stock exchanges.
Many of the organisations in the Sector are growing from strength to strength under the leadership of competent Barbadian professionals who perform at the high global standards required by the parent companies. They provide professional expertise, sound leadership and a genuine understanding of the environment in which the Barbadian entities operate.
Such proven local talent continues to be a critical success factor for new foreign investment into Barbados.
Apart from a sound local education system to which all nationals have free access, many Barbadians go primarily to North America or the United Kingdom to complete secondary school and / or pursue university degrees. Some stay on and gain valuable work experience in a large environment before returning home to enjoy the quality of life Barbados offers and continue to pursue their careers. Many others who remain in Barbados to pursue work experience themselves get valuable global exposure through working with the many global organisations with significant operations in Barbados notably the major professional services firms and the leading banking institutions.
The emphasis on continuing personal and professional development by our workforce and by progressive employers was recently highlighted as a big plus of many of the finalists in the Barbados’ Best Employers award in October 2010. Both the organisations and their people are placing much value and emphasis on continuous development and regional and international exposure.
In addition to drawing from the pool of Barbadian talent, businesses operating in Barbados can now recruit graduates who are nationals of other English speaking Caribbean countries who are members of the grouping called CARICOM without needing to apply for a work permit. As a recruiter I can vouch that this has provided even more options for getting talent for technical positions as well as middle and top management positions. In terms of available talent, there is also an emerging group of enterprising young entrepreneurs who, with the right international partners, can provide valuable linkages for doing global business.
In the late eighties and early nineties international businesses coming to Barbados typically recruited accountants, bankers and or ex-bankers to provide financial oversight as well as “mind and managementâ€ in Barbados.
The sector has become far more vibrant and substantive. Many Barbadians now work as heads or very senior managers in significant organisations, which constantly operate in a truly global environment. While the finance / accounting jobs are still being filled locally, a number of Senior Management and Leadership positions are also being filled by various professionals from diverse disciplines such as taxation, law, marketing, information technology, insurance etc.
A depth of talent and relatively new untapped potential is available with a wealth of local and regional know-how, which can help investors, hit the ground running.
Investors should not make assumptions about what talent is not available in Barbados. They need to go through experienced recruiters on the ground to ascertain how much of the talent needed can be sourced locally and maybe even regionally before making these important resourcing decisions.
Educated, well-developed human resources are an important component of what continues to make Barbados attractive to foreign investors.