A vocationally skilled youth for a stronger VI

| August 22, 2020

Resident columnist Dickson Igwe

A vocationally skilled youth for a stronger Virgin Islands

The training of Virgin Islands youth for the critical hands on, and vocational skills, required by the economy and community, is not an option.

There has been a lot in the news recently on the anomalies of a workforce culture that keeps on importing migrant labor to the detriment of Virgin Islands Society.

Recently, a minister and politician warned of the unsustainability of a workforce that is 70% alien. When there is this type of imbalance, it spills over into the wider community and impacts the wider culture, mostly negatively.

When migrant labor comes from places where the culture is similar to the VI culture – Guyana, Grenada, Antigua, Anguilla Trinidad, for example- then economic migration is sustainable, albeit numbers must be strictly controlled.

However, culture sets that are vastly different from the VI type can drive division and xenophobia, especially in a tiny community. Though politically incorrect, the culture of migrants is a factor when deciding what type of migrant to welcome into a society.

Now, The fact is that 70% of Virgin Islands youth migrate to the USA and elsewhere after leaving school,  to seek ‘’better opportunities.’’ And, most of these youth remain in the USA permanently.

Caribbean migrants to the US are caught up in the culture type and values set of the USA. This is a culture of an endless credit and debt cycle; consume and spend orientation; and higher taxes. After a lifetime in the USA most migrants remain ‘’ struggling,’’ and one paycheck removed from the debt collector.

In the USA our kids may earn vastly higher wages, but they frequently face discrimination and worse.

Photo courtesy TripAdviser

Feedback from a number of African migrants in the USA reveals a high level of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life in the USA, in spite of the economic benefits. The saying is valid: money is not everything.

We all know that in the end those kids who remain in their own land for work and life will ultimately be better off. The geography and local culture is a natural cocoon, a shield and fortress, against a cold world, across the channel.

The migration of a significant percentage of the native population means the economy requires migrant labor to function as replacement labor.

The problem with this is that the learning skills in various areas of the economy, from construction and building maintenance, to auto and culinary, maritime and landscaping, and much more are lost to VI youth for good, and the economy has to depend on migrant labor for these critical disciplines permanently. And these migrants are the beneficiaries of this precious learning in technical and vocational skills, not our own children.

The solution is obvious. It is culture change.  This Writer frequently emphasizes that the most successful people economically in the islands are vocationally trained, hands on, men and women. The vast majority of jobs, careers, and businesses are in the vocations. This is a cultural and economic reality in the Virgin Islands and wider Caribbean that is not going to change anytime soon.

Consequently, it is time to reorient the learning culture. The country must build a trade school linked with a national apprenticeship program. On the board of the trade school will sit the men and women who run the local economy: the multi-millionaire plumber and super store owner, the powerful quarry owners, the boat yard manager, the car dealers, the building contractors, the heavy equipment operators, the oil and gas company, the electricity corporation,  and so on and so forth.

This is a call for the business community to collectively mentor Virgin Islands youth to build a future where our young people become the businessmen and women of tomorrow, owning and driving the economy, and job growth, for the benefit of their own country.

If the Virgin Islands as a community fails to do this most critical task in ensuring the future of our youth, through apprenticeship and commercial mentoring, and look only to the bottom line, when we all inevitably pass on, the country will be taken over by alien cultures,  and our kids will become slaves in their own land.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

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Category: African Caribbean, Commentary, Culture & Society

About the Author (Author Profile)

Dickson Igwe is an education official in the Virgin Islands. He is also a national sea safety instructor. He writes a national column across media and has authored a story book on the Caribbean: ‘The Adventures of a West Indian Villager’. Dickson is focused on economics articles, and he believes economics holds the answer to the full economic and social development of the Caribbean. He is of both West African and Caribbean heritage. Dickson is married with one son.

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