Wednesday, December 8, 2010

GB residents eager for Baha Mar work

Freeport News
 Baha Mar Resort

Freeport, Grand Bahama- Residents turned out in huge numbers on Monday night to learn about the job opportunities for Grand Bahamians on the Baha Mar project that will include five hotels in New Providence.

Eight-million dollars will be invested in training for Bahamians during the construction and operational phase of the Baha Mar project to create a workforce with the skills necessary to oversee work on the multi-million dollar hotel facility.

Work on the property is slated to begin in January 2011 and be completed by December 2014.

Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes informed residents gathered at the Foster B. Pestaina Centre that the hotel facility will provide training opportunities for jobs at the construction sites and training for permanent positions

The project will employ some 7,000 Bahamians when it is completed.

Foulkes noted that the project will provide a variety of jobs for Grand Bahamian contractors, not exclusive to the construction field but across different fields from public relations to interior design, architecture and engineering.

He explained that first and foremost Baha Mar is a national project.

"Whether you live in Inagua or whether you live in Grand Cay, you will have an opportunity, if you meet the requirements of Baha Mar, to get a job at Baha Mar," Foulkes assured.

"We are here tonight because we believe that Grand Bahama, in terms of its economic challenges, deserves our first attention," he said.

Robert "Sandy" Sands, Senior vice president of Baha Mar noted that during the course of the construction, the project is expected to generate 4,000 construction jobs.

"We are going to do our best to facilitate skill sets from all islands that are prepared to work on this project," he said.

Sands noted that one of the aims is to spread available construction contracts to companies of varying sizes.

"It is our hope to spread the economic pie to a wide range of construction companies so that everybody or a larger amount of construction companies benefit from the economic advantage of this project," he said.

The town meeting provided a forum for Grand Bahamians to voice their most pressing concerns in relations to Baha Mar.

The most pressing concern for Doyle Russell was what provisions the Government would make for graduating students.

He added that school students involved in technical programs have skills that can be utilized if persons in the Labour Department would make efforts to explore the school system, despite claims that Bahamians are not qualified.

Foulkes noted that unemployed persons with skills should register with the labour office's labour exchange, because work permits are granted to immigrants on the grounds that there are no Bahamians qualified to fill a position.

Other residents also inquired whether persons who participate in training programs will be guaranteed a job with Baha Mar.

"It won't be 100 percent but certainly that is the objective of the whole training program, to introduce new talent," Sands responded.

He said that one of the criteria for Bahamians getting contracts with Baha Mar is that they have a percentage of their workforce dedicated to apprentices who will gain additional training that Baha Mar will help to fund through established courses at local institutions.

Sands also noted that some training will most likely occur in Grand Bahama to prevent persons from moving to New Providence for training.

Another question posed was will provisions be made to provide housing for Grand Bahamians who relocate in search of job opportunities with Baha Mar.

Foulkes was noncommittal in his response, noting that it is something the Government would consider.

"These are very difficult times for a lot of families here in Grand Bahama and we are going to do whatever we can to facilitate the maximum participation in this project," he said.

Karen Mader posted about her reluctance to travel to Nassau for employment on The Freeport News' Facebo-ok page.

"I think a lot of Grand Bahamians can get a job there if they are interested, but many of us do not want to relocate especially with the crime level in Nassau," she said.

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