Time to change the narrative
Over the past week I have heard some of the following conversations:
A senior requesting that someone come to fix a leak in her roof.
One of my colleagues expressing that Bermudians are excluded from well-paid jobs.
A lady expressed gratitude for a towing service pulling her out of the mud.
A mother shouting for joy that her son had been hired as a marine mechanic.
Two mothers/business owners speaking of the need for more Bermudian tradesmen and women.
Thousands of residents calling for Belco linesmen to get their lights back on during a winter storm.
So, what do all these conversations have in common?
Change the narrative
All of those above conversations demonstrate that, as a country, we need to have a serious change in conversations in our homes, churches, family gatherings, schools and other organisations.
For the past 40 years, it has been deemed "unfashionable" for Bermudians to encourage their young persons to learn a trade or a series of trades.
Let us be honest with ourselves and each other: whether it is around the kitchen table, inside the classroom or out in social circles, persons in the trades have been viewed as "less than" those who happened to work in an office.
Yes, working in an air-conditioned office in front of a computer may seem more appealing than labouring out in the elements. However, there are only but so many office jobs to be filled and thousands of jobs in the trades that are unfilled by Bermudians.
Being able to learn a trade and then master it has led hundreds of Bermudians on the path to becoming business owners and building their own homes.
Some prime examples are master welder Winston “Coe” Trott, master mason James Fray, master mechanic Raymond Black and master nail technician Maxcetta Paynter.
All of these persons have passed on their skills to other Bermudians, who have now established themselves in their respective fields.
You see, as a country we must change the narrative that working in trades is “less than”.
A stark reality check is that fewer than 15 per cent of public high school graduates choose initially to go into the trades upon graduation.
Another sad reality is that the Bermuda College has technical courses that are never fully subscribed.
The net result has been, and will continue to be, a shortage of skilled Bermudians in every trade needed to keep our island running.These are inclusive of mechanics, landscapers, barbers, nail technicians, plumbers, air-conditioning technicians, masons, etc, etc.
Don't believe me?
Go to any frontline garage and see who is fixing automobiles.
Book an appointment to get a haircut at any barbershop in Hamilton and see who is doing the cutting.
The reality is that by us Bermudians, refusing to enter these trades it becomes inevitable that skilled guest workers will have to be utilised.
Many then go on to become business owners who then hire others, as there are literally hundreds of millions of dollars that are spent annually on tradesmen and women.
Let's think about it for a minute: in Bermuda there are more than 30,000 houses, 60,000 vehicles of every type, 2,000 commercial properties, and grass that continues to grow.
All of these have to be serviced in some shape or form on a regular basis. As such, there will never be a time that tradesmen and women are not needed.
For every young Bermudian who decides not to go into the trades, we are looking at more and more work permits that will have to be granted. Each work permit that is given can equate to money going out of our economy.
As a country, we need to focus on getting more and more of our people with these skills; this will keep money in our economy, and give them a lifetime of work with greater chances of home and business ownership.
In the year 2021, we need to stop having circular conversations about these topics.
The tools of the various trades — spanners, pipe wrenches, hammers, levels — will always be used.
It is up to each one of us to change the narrative of "less than" and get more Bermudians using those tools.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at email@example.com