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It’s possible we’re not debating the right things

During this week’s epic Senate debate, the One Bermuda Alliance made a point of saying that the Fairmont Southampton project would cause 60 per cent of the construction workers on site to be non-Bermudian.

Not sure how it can speak to percentages, as it is neither the developer, contractor or subcontractor. So, at best the OBA is, as a former finance minister stated, “pulling numbers out of a hat”.

Here are few historical observations:

The OBA has constantly pushed for 7,000 more work permits. So, it is hilarious hearing the Opposition, because of this project, suddenly make it seem problematic that there could be a large number of guest workers on site.

This is the same party that gave Aecon an ironclad deal that allowed 40 per cent to 50 per cent of the workers on the airport project to be non-Bermudian.

Yet, somehow, that was not a reason for it to refuse to sign that deal.

Apart from the politics, we all, regardless of affiliation, have to face a stark reality here in Bermuda.

No, we do not have enough Bermudians wanting to work in the trades. This unfortunate trend is consistent in most developed jurisdictions.

Ben Smith, Opposition Senate Leader

Ironically, countries such as Britain, Barbados and Jamaica are now saying that they, too, have to import great amounts of skilled workers in order to build new infrastructure and to maintain what is already in place.

The stark reality is this: globally, regionally and locally, we need to have a significant shift in how society views tradesmen and women.

It is not enough for governments and private sector entities to provide training and employment opportunities. It will take parents, schools and communities to encourage and, dare I say, demand that our young people take up the needed trades.

It is then on our young people to want to learn and work in professions such as masonry, carpentry, plumbing, electrical and air conditioning.

Barring that, we and other jurisdictions will always have to import skilled tradesmen and women to maintain our industries and infrastructure.

In closing, perhaps now, there is a glimmer of hope that Ben Smith and the OBA will lend their voice in encouraging more Bermudians to take up scores of trades that can provide a lifetime of employment.

That is a national debate truly worth having.

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 May 20, 2022 at 7:58 am (Updated May 20, 2022 at 7:57 am)

It’s possible we’re not debating the right things

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