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A few inconvenient truths

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Mason Tee Saunders does his part to upgrade nearly $700,000 worth of renovations at the 350-year-old St. James Church in this file photo. The decline in the number of Bermudian tradesmen needs to be reversed, says Chris Famous.

Two decades ago, Vice-President Al Gore presented what he called an inconvenient truth.

Since early 2000, there has been a continuing decline in the number of Bermudians working as skilled tradesmen and women

He spoke of the threat to the world's climate by the continued growth of greenhouse gases, melting ice packs, increased droughts, stronger hurricanes and rising sea levels.

Many scoffed at him and refused to publicly acknowledge that he was correct.

This week, world leaders, including those from affected countries in the Caribbean and Pacific areas, are meeting in Scotland at the United Nations’ COP26 to discuss and potentially agree on the way forward to reverse the near-imminent threat.

Unfortunately, some say we have already breached the tipping point.

Death of the tradesman

Over the past few decades, local tradesmen in every field have stated that there simply are not enough young Bermudians willing to start learning skilled trades such as tiling, masonry and carpentry.

Columnist Khalid Wasi encapsulated it perfectly in a recent column titled “Death of the Tradesman”.

There is the debatable argument that wages were too low to attract younger Bermudians.

Essentially, the 1990s saw a decline of Bermudians wanting to work in the trades. This drop-off was not for lack of work available.

Houses and buildings will always need to be maintained, vehicles are constantly breaking down, ladies will always need to have their hair and nails groomed, and grass never stops growing.

We simply cannot have offices without functioning AC units or restaurants not having chefs to cook meals.

In the absence of willing locals, employers, both then and now, are left with no choice but to look overseas for skilled tradespersons.

Which leads to the stark reality shown in a graph produced by economist Robert Stubbs, clearly indicating a rise in non-Bermudian workers as of the 1990s, which coincides with the drop-off in Bermudian workers.

Anecdotal, you say?

Let's have a look at some critical statistics found in the 2021 Employment Brief:

• Masons 60 per cent non-Bermudian

• Chefs 77 per cent non-Bermudian

• Tilers 67 per cent non-Bermudian

• Auto mechanics 53 per cent non-Bermudian

• AC/refrigeration technicians 30 per cent non-Bermudian

So, for those who are willing to learn a trade, there are abundant opportunities for full-time employment.

The tipping point

At COP26, world leaders have an obvious choice.

Roll back the emissions or face irreversible global damage.

Some, such as Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley, are full of good intent, while others will simply stand on the stage and pontificate. Even more glaringly, those most responsible for global warming, Russia and China, are not even actively participating in the conference.

Here in Bermuda, we have some obvious choices to make as well.

Continue to complain online or individually and collectively reverse our employment trends.

Teachers, parents and extended family should be encouraging our young people, at an early age, to look into the technical fields. These fields provide a pathway to young persons having lifelong careers and owning their businesses.

There are several avenues such as Bermuda College, the Department of Workforce Development, the Construction Association of Bermuda, and simply becoming an apprentice.

We have a duty, to be honest with ourselves, that as a country we must do better in getting our people trained up. We cannot blame others for where we have fallen short.

That, my fellow Bermudians, is the inconvenient truth.

Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at carib_pro@yahoo.com

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Published November 05, 2021 at 8:04 am (Updated November 05, 2021 at 8:04 am)

A few inconvenient truths

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