Mr. Dennis Zulu, Acting United Nations Resident Coordinator,

Ms. Tanya Radosavljevic, Deputy Representative, UNICEF Office for the Eastern Caribbean Area,

Permanent Secretaries and Deputy Permanent Secretaries,

Chief Administrator and Representatives of the Tobago House of Assembly,

Members of the United Nations Country Team,

Representatives from the private sector and academia,

Other stakeholders,

Members of the Media.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Approximately one and a half years ago, a celebration of the collaboration between United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the Ministry of Planning and Development, on behalf of the Generation Unlimited (GenU) Project, occurred in support of the Development of a National Manpower Plan Project. Today, as recently appointed Minister of Planning and Development, I stand proud as this collaboration has borne fruit, in the form of two labour skills assessment reports, namely, the Labour Skills Assessment Report for the Energy Engineering Services subsector and the Labour Skills Assessment Report for the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Platform and Services subsector of Trinidad and Tobago. These Reports, are examples of Government’s commitment to fulfilling its facilitative role in support of private sector-led development within these targeted growth sectors.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Government continues to pursue the goal of becoming a digital nation, in keeping with Vision 2030, through promoting the use of ICT to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Government services. Government also supports the transition towards greater utilization of renewable energy resources in meeting our Vision 2030 strategic objective of diversification within the energy sector. Further, the expansion of the ICT and Energy sectors has been highlighted in the Roadmap to Recovery Reports as priority areas that can encourage investment, innovation and entrepreneurship, making it easier to do business and get projects activated and commercialised.

As the Minister entrusted with the responsibility for National Manpower Planning, and in carrying out the facilitative role that Government plays in sector development, a deliberate decision was taken to produce labour skills assessments in the aforementioned subsectors, in an effort to improve matching skills supply with demand. Government will seek to implement the recommendations contained within these Skills Assessments Reports within the near future, in conjunction with stakeholders. In this same vein, Government looks forward to the private sector playing its role of driving investment within these subsectors.

The Reports aim to fulfil the following four (4) main objectives:

  1. Anticipate the occupations in which most jobs will be generated over the next three to five years towards ensuring that skills shortages are addressed;
  2. Determine blockages to existing skills supply and why the current manpower system is unable to respond to changes in occupational demand in these subsectors;
  3. Provide a basis from which to guide the formulation of inclusive education and employment policies to enable resilience among the vulnerable and to contribute meaningfully to the development of the country; and
  4. Determine the skills needed by the workforce that are essential for boosting the productivity of employed persons, especially young persons who are looking to enter the labour market.

I am very pleased and satisfied that the reports have met these four objectives. They have successfully provided the skills needed within these sectors by outlining demand, based on social, economic, environmental, legal, technological and political factors (PESTEL Analysis). Forecasted skills over the next five years in the ICT sector varied across forty different job types, from Information Security Analysts to Big Data Specialists. In relation to the Energy Engineering Services subsector, over twenty job types were deemed to be in demand within the projected period including fabricators and environmental specialists.

Recommendations to address systemic deficiencies from both the supply and demand side of labour, were also made for both sectors. These relate to quick wins or actions that can be undertaken in the medium term versus actions to be undertaken in the long term. Suggestions for reducing the skills gaps within the ICT sector included:

  • Improved dissemination to the general public and public sector employees about Government’s plans for digitalisation so that there is greater understanding of the implications and their role in this transformation process;
  • Review the employment regulations and terms and conditions for ICT professionals in the public sector towards ensuring that more specialist ICT skills are accommodated;
  • Develop more industry-based apprenticeship programmes, with accompanying soft or employability skills.

Recommendations for the Energy Engineering Services Sector included:

  • Encourage more investment in renewable energies and related technologies, which, has already commenced by Government;
  • Encourage our youth to work in the sector through more targeted career guidance programmes;
  • Establish a permanent structure for bringing together key education and industry players, through a sector-based committee under the National Training Agency (NTA).

These are just a few of the key recommendations made for discussion, consideration and implementation. The Ministry of Planning and Development, as a first step towards implementation, will be facilitating sensitization sessions for each Report, which would enable more in-depth discussions about the contents of the Reports and the way forward, in collaboration with stakeholders. Our intention, is to ensure that tangible outcomes and desired results are materialised now that these Reports have been produced. These Reports therefore, must not be shelved.

In moving forward, I also wish to state that the production of these Reports are only the beginning of the process of developing an effective national manpower system, where labour demand and supply are matched. The Ministry of Planning and Development will continue to play a coordinating role of all manpower planning activities towards ensuring that the system is made more effective. I urge all stakeholders present here today to continue to work with my Ministry in addressing the systemic challenges towards ensuring that a steady supply of appropriately skilled, and qualified labour force within these sectors, are available.

To the educators and training providers, there remains much work to be done in terms of skills training and teacher upgrades. To the private sector, your investment is critical to promoting growth within the sectors, however, there needs to be greater collaboration with educators and also fuller participation in the future data collection processes, which will facilitate up-to-date forecasts.

Representatives from the Ministry of Planning and Development will therefore be working with all of you in the near future to finalise and execute the plan of action of these Reports. In so doing, I envisage long term, strategic partnerships in building the manpower system, sector by sector.

I wish to also advise, that the MPD also intends to undertake more studies including additional Labour Skills Assessments within other targeted growth sectors such as the Agriculture and Agro-Processing sector and the Transportation sector, including the Maritime subsector. Further, as previously communicated by my Ministry, we are expected to engage a consultancy to develop a National Manpower Plan, which would identify other systemic deficiencies within the National Manpower System and make recommendations of ways to fix these challenges. This will include recommending a suitably staffed institutional mechanism that coordinates national manpower activities, as well as the requisite legislative changes.

Finally, I once again wish to acknowledge and thank the United Nations for its support of the Manpower Project and particular appreciation goes out to the UNICEF, for its technical and financial support, through the GenU Project. The labour Skills Assessment Reports presented here today would not have been possible without your assistance and for this, the Ministry of Planning and Development, on behalf of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, is grateful.

Heartfelt thanks to all stakeholders who assisted the consultancy Firm, Centre for Employment Initiatives (CEI), in the data collection and other consultative processes in developing these Reports. I also commend the CEI team for delivering two insightful, critically needed Reports and my staff at the Ministry of Planning and Development for managing these deliverables. In conclusion, I look forward to the successful pursuit of all future endeavours associated with the National Manpower Planning project. Thank you.