Engaging the Diaspora (Part II)


PULL QUOTE: ‘If there is a single tool that has been designed to enable a network and database of skills within the Diaspora, it is the Internet.  And there is no time like the present to proactively employ it in gathering in the scattered skeleton of our people so that we could operate,as much as possible, as one nation’IN previous articles in this series, I mentioned and expanded upon a proposed tracking mechanism that would serve to monitor the development of our human resources.  In addition to this, one area

that we desperately need to look at in terms of transforming our human resource environment regards our engagement with our Diaspora. The Jamaicans have, within the CARICOM Region, gone the furthest, from the little I’ve observed and researched, in not simply courting but creating a mechanism of engaging Jamaicans living abroad, the Diaspora Advisory Board(DAB).
What I want to note here is that among other things, the Board is mandated to “Increase the human resource potential available to Jamaica through skills and attributes of returned nationals.”This month, the DAB will be hosting its third Jamaica Diaspora Conference in Ocho Rios, under the theme “One Nation: Jamaica and Its Diaspora in Partnership”.
Now the argument can be made that Jamaica is physically closer to North America where the bulk of its Diaspora – as does that of Guyana and virtually every other Caribbean territory – resides, and hence a sustained physical engagement with Jamaicans in America and Canada is more viable.  That argument might have been valid about 15, maybe even 10, years ago but in this era of high-speed broadband Internet, and free or cheap VOIP provided by virtually every online e-mail provider, and Skype, we have the tools at our disposal to leap distances and to coordinate across continents as we have never had before.
If there is a single tool that has been designed to enable a network and database of skills within the Diaspora, it is the Internet.  And there is no time like the present to proactively employ it in gathering in the scattered skeleton of our people so that we could operate, much as possible, as one nation.
Subsidiary to this idea is the specific engagement of remigrant retirees, something I’ve explored in columns previous to this series.  Skilled, retired persons are a collective treasure trove of human resource skills and information, and a structured programme would serve to categorise and deploy those skills, the majority of which would be voluntary, in enhancing our human resource capacity.
Another area of human resource development, as I touched upon in the last article, had to do with the management of foreign direct investment in developing human resource skills locally.  My solution with regard to FDI – and indeed this is the subject that really inspired the original article in this series – was the establishment of a mechanism to funnel funds into a training and skills development mechanism, a consolidated fund that would distribute resources as required within whatever area of development.
To modify that – and I have to state here that I am not speaking in my capacity as Chairman of GO-Invest – we should have a system where we could geographically map our human resources and skill sets.  When an investor is seeking out information on Guyana, my belief is that the same sort of information that we make readily available with respect to the distribution of natural resources, should also be available with regard to human resources.
With regard to donor funding, the reality of the situation now is that while some ministries – with ministries being the main conduit for donor programme support – attract a large amount of support, others do not due to the fact that their mandate may not fall into the donor’s scope of outreach.  What we therefore have is a situation where the tide of funding is not one which raises all boats equally, something a holistic approach to negotiation and implementation would seek to correct, in this specific case, labour development.
Granted that there are greater strictures which govern the final distribution of resources supplied by the donor community, there is nothing that says that we cannot negotiate the TORs of certain, or all, donor projects to reflect a more holistic mechanism for their implementation. 
Finally, all this would be contingent upon a greater sophistication with regard to labour information and intelligence.   What we need is a database that ascertains or determines the kind of labour force that is needed across sectors.
This would, to recap our key solutions with regard to preparing our human resources for the future, be the basis for a system that can track our human resource capacity from the secondary education to the workpool; facilitate the enhancement of our human resources by the continuous enhancement of locally available skills and the proactive involvement of those from the Diaspora; creatively utilise funding from both foreign direct investment as well as donor funding to prepare our workforce, whether local or imported, for upcoming industries; and, most importantly, develop a culture of forward planning policy formulation when it comes to preparing our human resources for the future.