Labour and Immigration Minister Keith Bell while addressing The Bahamas Chamber of
Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) Power Breakfast on May 11th called for
continued dialogue and input from the business community toward addressing immigration and labor-related issues in the country.
During his presentation, Minister Bell provided an update on the government’s plan to reform the country’s four decades old apprenticeship legislation and plans for a National
Apprenticeship Program. He also engaged attendees in a lively and frank discussion on several immigration and labor-related issues in the country.
Minister Bell noted that The Apprenticeship Act was first introduced in 1983 and it is envisaged that amendments to the legislation and the introduction of a National Apprenticeship program will boost job prospects for Bahamians between the ages of 18-40, provide them with the necessary certifications and improve workforce productivity. Minister Bell noted that each year 5,000 students graduate from high school in The Bahamas, though unfortunately, many high school leavers are ill-equipped for the job market in terms of soft skills, job training, and readiness. He stressed that the National Apprenticeship Program must have the buy-in from the private sector, with many private sector organizations already offering successful skills training and job readiness programs which he said must be amalgamated.
BCCEC chair Khrystle Rutherford-Ferguson stated that government and the private sector must come to the table to develop a reverse brain drain strategy, with the country facing a significant challenge in retaining those who are educated and highly skilled within the local workforce. Minister Bell concurred, noting that better salaries and benefits are one of the primary reasons why many are choosing job opportunities abroad.
The Labour and Immigration Minister also revealed that the government is presently
considering a proposal to offer an expedited work permit approval and renewal process. He
noted that between January and March, the government collected $20.6 million in work permit fees. Minister Bell urged employers to submit their work permit renewal applications three months ahead of the expiration date and ensure that they provide all the necessary
documentation. He noted that the Department of Immigration issues 15,000 work permits
Minister Bell also noted that there are approximately 1,600 citizenship applications that will be impacted in some way by the Privy Council’s landmark decision on citizenship handed “down on May 4th. He suggested that government may have to consider introducing DNA testing to confirm a child’s paternity to mitigate fraud. The Privy Council has ruled that all children born in The Bahamas out of wedlock to foreign women and Bahamian men are Bahamian citizens at birth. Minister Bell stressed that Immigration officials will not compromise the process of granting citizenship, adding that due diligence will be carried out.
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Pictured left to right: Charnette Thompson - BCCEC Director, Khrystle Rutherford-Ferguson - BCCEC Chairman, The Honorable Keith Bell - Minister of Labor and Immigration, Peter Goudie - BCCEC Director, Cecelia Strachan - Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labor and Immigration
Duran Humes, CEO Plato Alpha Design
The Honorable Keith Bell - Minister of Labor and Immigration