One does not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that St. Maarten lacks skilled local labour. The 2,112 employment permit requests for non-nationals from 2019 up to and including to June 2021 (see Tuesday paper), of which just over half (1,078) were first-time applications basically tell the story.
During that same period 737 persons registered as unemployed, with a 29.2 per cent increase in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although not all persons out of work do so, that is still less than a third of the total 2,334 vacancies recorded.
No wonder, because 53 per cent of the latter required special certification. Many jobseekers were also primarily looking for administrative functions, while those are not the prevalent ones on offer.
It’s been said before, the island’s education system is not well-suited to the labour market. As an example, police are actively being recruited, but becoming one requires adequate knowledge of Dutch, yet that’s only a subject in most high schools using English as language of instruction.
The tourism economy logically provides fewer office- and more service-oriented jobs to fill. Enhanced practical education and vocational training are therefore key to making use of opportunities presenting themselves as the dominant hospitality industry recovers.
Entities like National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) and Sundial School as well as others no doubt do their best to address this obvious mismatch. However, it seems clear that more is needed.