Guyana was once a country of carpenters, masons and other artisans. These people were in such number that the Caribbean countries reached out to them for their skills. Barbados, in particular, attracted numerous skilled Guyanese, to the extent that when the Barbados government clamped down on illegal Guyanese, their construction sector suffered.
To a man, Barbados acknowledged that Guyanese were among the most skilled in the region. I suspect that there has been a relaxation of the clampdown, because I am not hearing too many complaints from the Barbados construction sector.
However, this past week, there was the announcement that Guyana is desperately short of these very skilled artisans. Imagine, from the days when carpenters were a dime a dozen and masons could be found at every corner, Guyana is now complaining.
I knew the situation was bad when a number of houses under construction suddenly collapsed. It was the same with the Indian monument being constructed at Palmyra, East Coast Berbice.
Boys learnt the trade at the knees of their fathers. Recently, a Linden cabinet maker found that he could not get apprentices. One young fellow whom he recruited simply said that he could not be interested in such a job.
Meanwhile, there are adults who are complaining that their children cannot find jobs. They speak of their children graduating from school with certificates and are forced to languish jobless. Many say that the government should find jobs for their children because they, the parents, campaigned extensively for the government when it was in opposition.
That may be true, but the children are simply not pursuing the available jobs. It is turning out to be a case of the young people seeking specific jobs for which some of them are not qualified. Most of the young women want to work in offices and very few want to pursue jobs as teachers or nurses.
Young men are reluctant to become policemen without recognizing that the more qualified they are the better would be their chances in the police force.
I remember when the Guyana Defence Force was coming into being, there were a number of qualified Queen’s College students who rushed to join. President David Granger was one. These people fashioned the army, making it a most enviable institution. Such is not the case these days.
And in instances where the young people are placed in certain positions, they leave the job complaining about the level of the pay. I can never understand how a person would prefer to stay at home without an earning, than to being gainfully employed.
For my part, I started my working life as a teacher, at a level just about that of a pupil teacher. I had left Queen’s College with my Ordinary Levels and the first thing I wanted to do was to get a job. One year later I was in the Government Teachers’ Training College. The rest is now history.
I have a sister who served in the diplomatic corps rising to the level of First Secretary in the Guyana High Commission in Canada. Before that she served in the Guyana United Nations mission in New York. She too started life as a teacher.
There are trade schools, but our young men who are not academically qualified are refusing to pursue a job in that field. The result is that these days, anyone with some money is a contractor who produces shoddy work but who until now, made money hand over fist.
At Kaieteur News I have seen young people being employed only to walk off after two weeks. In one case a young person worked for a mere half day. A month ago, a young man simply disappeared off the job and I have not heard from him since. It must be a case of these people believing that all they have to do is turn up for work.
They do not realize that the job entails thinking and communication skill, although to hear some of them talk one would believe that they are God’s gift to the profession. And it is not that the job does not pay.
It is not by accident that the various media houses are constantly on the search for reporters. Young people leave school and most of them cannot write or spell. Their knowledge is sadly lacking. Some do not know who is the Commissioner of Police, certain Ministers of Government or even prominent people in the political opposition.
One reporter met the Speaker of the National Assembly in the National Park and after interviewing him, asked him his name. Quite rightly, the Speaker referred her to her editor.
But these days the world is so different from the one thirty or forty years ago. Technology has grown by leaps and bounds. Research material is at one’s fingertips, to the extent that libraries are redundant. Yet many of the young people could not be bothered.
A week ago, there was the story that in another thirty years half of the jobs that people do would be done by robots. As a very young boy I had heard the same thing. In fact, I believed that I would not have been able to get a job in the robot-controlled world.
When I worked with the Guyana National Newspapers Limited, the Production Department employed many people. There were typesetters, cameramen, plate developers and many other levels of skilled people. The reporters typed on their typewriters and the material had to be retyped by the type setters.
Today the reporter has replaced the typesetter. He does his own typesetting; the huge cameras that transferred images to plates have disappeared. There is a machine that transfers the images to the plates that go on the press with what is read by the readers.
However, it opened doors for the old employees. They had to be retrained for the new job and they ended up earning more than they did.
I am not sure that the young people are gravitating to the computer, because in every job computer knowledge is crucial. Most things are being done electronically, but how many young people are ready for the many jobs that exist in those areas?
Life is more than a case of wanting a ‘wuk”; it is a case of being able to do the ‘wuk” when it is secured. And herein lies the problem about young people claiming to be unemployed. Many are unemployable.
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