Operations in some private sector entities have now been crippled by the loss of hundreds of skilled and technical employees to companies associated with the oil and gas industry.
And while there is no targeted approach by the Private Sector Commission to arrest this unusual attrition, some private sector actors believe the situation could be countered by matching the loss of employees with similarly sharp hiring, retention and training approaches.
Chairman of the Trade and Investment Committee of Guyana’s Private Sector Commission (PSC) Ramesh Dookhoo told the News Room on Thursday that it was a “big problem” that required both private sector leaders and the government to face reality in addressing.
He said the private sector has been dealing with wage inflation for almost two years now, noting that higher salaries should not be seen as the only solution to this problem. The private sector minimum wage was recently increased to $60, 000.
With that inflation reaching a peak, Dookhoo said private sector entities are also challenged by dozens of recruitment companies that are paid to hire staff for mainly the oil and gas sector.
This has put significant strain on local manufacturing and agro-processing companies to retain employees who they have invested in training and educating.
It is on this front that Dookhoo has challenged the management of Technical and Vocation Education Training (TVET) in the country.
“We have spent years talking about TVET’s management and it is not delivering. It is scattered across the country and yes, this government has made some inroads but more needs to be done.
“All technical institutions have to be relooked and if it is not functioning then fire everybody, get a new board because this can’t continue. Various private sector leaders are crying out for this thing,” Dookhoo explained.
Dookhoo said private sector entities continue to train and educate staff with many persons being offered scholarships.
He referenced the Guyana Technical Training College in Port Mourant, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) which has been supported financially by ExxonMobil.
But Dookhoo did not spare calling out those private sector companies that have failed to adapt to the changing dynamics of the local market.
He said no longer can these companies continue to use traditional hiring and retention strategies.
“We are saying we can’t find people but there are lots of people out there who can’t find a job and they don’t buy the newspapers every day. So, while on the one hand, we have a huge demand there are people who we seem to be reaching.”
To this end, Dookhoo has backed the government’s stated intention to import labour in certain categories of work into the country in the near future.
“We got to face reality and bring labour into Guyana, legal labourers.
“…than turn a blind eye to illegal migration of people because then we don’t know who is here, we have no control… so I support we tap legal migration of skilled labourers even as we invest in training our own people,” Dookhoo reasoned.
He said training locals remains important because no Guyanese would want to see a job being taken away by a foreigner.
“We also have to change our work ethic and understand where we need skills and make sure the TVET programme is functioning.”
Dookhoo said regardless of whatever plan is put in place and even if higher salaries are offered, people will leave and move on.
He cautioned people, however, to look at the long term.
“It would appear medical schemes, pension benefits and saving schemes by local companies are no longer attractive to young people but it is very important as you get older.
“The money might look good now but what happens when your boss gets vex with you and treat you like not human,” the PSC Executive said as he made a case for functioning union bodies also.
These concerns raised by Dookhoo were also recently articulated in part by Vice Chairman of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association Ramsay Ali and Chairman of the Private Sector Commission Paul Cheong.