Director of Industrial Relations, Queens University, Canada, Paul Juniper.

The facts about human resources (HR) in the Caribbean was the issue of note this morning, with the Presentation of Survey Results for An Inquiry into the State of the Human Resources Profession in the Caribbean at the Cave Hill School of Business, University of the West Indies.

A collaboration between the School of Business and Queen’s University in Canada, the survey revealed much about the state of HR, with Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Andrew Cox, acknowledging that development of human capital was the cornerstone for Barbados and other nations in the region.

While observing that Government continued to place emphasis in human capital development through education and training, Mr. Cox acknowledged that this training, however, needed to be guided by a particular vision.  He observed that “For too long we have been training and educating people at our educational institutions in areas that are not specifically required by industry.  We have heard the concerns raised by employers that workers do not possess all of the necessary skills to support their operations…To address the concerns raised by employers we have developed the Barbados Human Resource Development Strategy.”

This strategy, he said, featured five pillars which included the development of an internationally recognised national qualifications framework and the development of a demand driven professional development and training services.  By extension, Mr. Cox said, there was also a need to “constantly question whether the graduates from our educational institutions are finding employment in their areas of training, whether they are satisfying their employer’s needs and whether they are skilled enough to build successful businesses.”

Citing a recent Barbados Vocational Training Board tracer study of construction students who graduated in 2011, statistics demonstrated that 48 per cent of the trainees were employed, with 39 per cent of those employed in their area of study.  “While this information only represents one industry, it does indicate the need for increased research and greater consultation between training institutions and industry to ensure that our training programmes are relevant and delighted to development goals,” he stressed.

With the need for a demand-driven training system becoming more evident, the Permanent Secretary maintained that flexibility in curricula development would be key, including the combination of traditional face-to-face instruction with using technology for teaching.  He added that these developments have been addressed in the recently approved Barbados Human Resource Development Strategy, prepared by the Labour and Education ministries; and the TVET Council’s National Training Plan.

The need for guided plans where HR development was concerned was also demonstrated in the presentation from Director of the Queen’s University Industrial Relations Centre, Paul Juniper.

According to Mr. Juniper, the survey of regional HR practitioners revealed that while their responsibility and workloads have increased overtime, major challenges included lack of respect for the HR function and profession; transforming the HR role from administrative to strategic; and lacking necessary skills and networking for the job, with the Queen’s Director encouraging HR professionals to join the Human Resource Management Association of Barbados as a means of support within their jobs.

The survey also featured 81 per cent female respondents and 19 per cent female, with 61 per cent operating in departments with less than five people.  41 per cent of respondents indicated that there was a budget for training and development and 70 per cent of respondents optimistic about the future of HR in the region.

The largest percentile of participants – 40 per cent – was drawn from Barbados, with other participating countries including Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Cayman Islands and the Bahamas.

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