In the near future it is highly unlikely that an expatriate would be able to get certain jobs in the Territory, especially within the marine sector; Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie and Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration, Hon Vincent Wheatley declared that steps would be taken to ensure that work permits are not approved for such jobs once a trained Virgin Islander is available for the position.
The Premier made the announcement on 7 October during the launch of the Marine Professional Training programme at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. This programme has been nicknamed “Back To The Sea” and it was organized to train Virgin Islanders for various types of marine related employment as well as reacquaint persons in the Territory with their marine heritage.
In noting that the training would be followed by a strict attempt to secure jobs for qualified Virgin Islanders Hon. Fahie said: “All of that I am saying is that we are on the move to make sure that everyone is working in the BVI. We are on the move to ensure that everyone is working in the BVI. We welcome anyone that comes to the BVI, but we have to build the BVI with the BVI people and those who choose to make BVI their home. When you are finished this programme it is now up to the government along with yourself to create the opportunity so that you can get employment.”
The Premier disclosed that a policy would be formulated to ensure that work permits are not issued for certain jobs: “We are very serious about the marine industry, because we are passing policies very soon that anyone who is trained in the BVI in the fields that you will be trained work permits would not be issued, unless they have exhausted the list of Virgin Islanders who are trained and can find no one else to do the job.”
“That is how serious we are about what is happening in the marine industry. We are not just going to talk the talk but we are going to walk the walk by putting policies in place to protect the industry for you, but I also ask you to protect the industry for yourself,” the Premier said.
Hon. Fahie also urged the Virgin Islanders in attendance to lodge complaint with Deputy Premier and Minister for Labour and Immigration, Hon. Vincent Wheatley if they note that the policy he mentioned is not being adhered to. Hon. Fahie said: “This is the Minister of Labour who will be passing the policy to protect the industry for you; so if you see you don’t get in and persons still coming in where you are trained then you know to go to him to help him tighten up.”
In response Hon. Wheatley declared that the policy that was referenced by the Premier was already in place. He told the gathering: “That policy is actually in place…if we have the skills on the island we won’t issue work permits in that area. Train to a very high level, you are guaranteed a job. I won’t give any work permit for your job. That’s already a policy in place,” the Minister added.
The comment about securing employment for the marine sector came a day before Hon. Wheatley announced that once the online database of the Labour Department goes fully online some work permits will be denied automatically.
Hon. Wheatley during his appearance on the Honestly Speaking talk show with Claude Skelton-Cline on 8 October explained that the system is being configured to match Virgin Islanders with available jobs. He said that if a job becomes available that matches the need of a Belonger and a work permit application is submitted: that work permit application will be denied.
In explaining how the process will work the Deputy Premier said: “Right now we have a database; every single BV Islander, every single Belonger who wants a job, we’re going to sign you up in this database, give us your skills, if you need training we will provide the training. This database tracks every single work permit. The minute you apply for a work permit it triggers the database. If there is anyone in here that suits the work permit application and if there is – it’s denied automatically we (have) the resource here.”
Further the Minister said that repeated applications for a certain job would also trigger the creation of a course at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College to ensure that Virgin Islanders have that skill.
Hon. Wheatley noted that the interaction between Labour and Immigration and the new e-system unveiled a few months back will also allow for the tracking of work permits: “So we can track those work permits, so we can track the Labour needs…We are pushing strongly for our people to upskill themselves,” he added.
Additionally the Minister for Immigration mentioned that the new Border Security system will be fully operational by mid-2020 and at that time the Department would have full knowledge of persons who enter the BVI border.”
The Minister said that the new system will help to track, monitor, record: ”We will know who is coming, when they are here, where they are and when they leave here. Really good border security system,” Hon. Wheatley explained.