In the wee hours of Sunday morning, scores of volunteers swarmed the quiet beach of Sandy Point at the very tip of Tobago’s South Western Coast.
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Central Bank Governor: Skills shortage in finance sector
Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambarran says T&T needs to turn to the diaspora to help with a potentially crippling skills deficit in the financial services sector. Speaking at an Institute of Banking and Finance of T&T (IBFTT) graduation ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad on Saturday evening, Rambarran said like many leading financial institutions the Central Bank is not immune to this worrying situation.
“T&T needs to be able to draw from a bigger pool than it currently has. We are seeing greater demand for specialised financial skills: anti-money laundering, actuarial science, risk management and wealth management. Such a process of recapitalisation should begin by addressing the need to draw out pockets of talent that currently remains untapped. Here we should quickly leverage our Trinidadian diaspora community. Our diaspora includes first and higher generation migrants, as well as people who have historical links with T&T and can potentially contribute to its welfare,” he said. Rambarran added, “Many of us have a narrow definition of the diaspora as those born in the country, but living outside the country. However, if we include others with historical links to T&T, our diaspora becomes at least 360,000 strong, consisting of highly skilled workers, graduates from colleges and universities, management and other professionals. We need to find ways to fully tap into this potential labour pool for human capital and financial investment.”
Rambarran highlighted the importance of the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) Programme noting than an average of 53,000 students annually had benefitted from it over the past five years.
However, he questioned its effectiveness, noting that 70 per cent of GATE funding focused on management, educational services, data processing/IT, engineering, health services, natural and pure sciences and accounting. He suggested that the programme be better aligned to the country’s economic priorities and future skills needs.
“Finance, of course, is one economic priority area. At the Central Bank, we are helping to build this financial eco-system through two major initiatives. Over the past decade, we have partnered with De La Rue, our currency printers, to offer the annual prestigious De La Rue Scholarship to students pursuing post-graduate studies in economics.
“This year, as we celebrate our 50th anniversary, we are offering five De La Rue Scholarships beyond economics to finance and actuarial science, areas in which we are building skills. From 2015, we will offer three De La Rue Scholarships,” he said. Rambarran added: “Since 2007, we have spearheaded the National Financial Literacy Programme (NFLP) to equip our citizens with the knowledge, skills and tools to make informed financial decision. We are now transforming the NFLP into an accredited training agency. One of the programmes of this new agency will be a certificate in Central Banking that will provide our entry level staff with broad-based knowledge and understanding of monetary policy, financial supervision and reserve management.”
He said another option for filling the skills gap is to make it easier for the mobility of workers in the region, as well as establishing a common framework for skills recognition to give employers and employees the confidence to move more freely across borders. Rambarran said there reports of difficulties being faced by finance and other professionals moving from one country to another because their qualifications are not recognised.
“I have heard one highly successful Trinidad businessman lament that it is far easier for him to hire a security guard from Nigeria, than to employ a financial analyst from Nigeria. At a time when skills shortages are acute, such barriers cannot be allowed to remain. We need to consider creating a common framework for skills recognition that gives employers and employees the confidence they needs to move more freely across borders,” he said.
“In the longer term, we need to review the financial architecture that governs skills and human capital, if we are to avoid breakdowns in the future. We must develop a strong eco-system that puts programmes in place to address the financial skills gaps before they become more critical. As we seek to build a knowledge driven economy, tertiary education must play an increasingly important role in enhancing the country’s human capital base. Tertiary education imparts knowledge and high-level skills, as well as provides basic and applied research needed to support innovation and entrepreneurship.”