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Key Productive Sectors to Provide New Employment Opportunities for Jamaican and Caribbean nationals

Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Professor Gordon Shirley has said that key productive sectors, such as tourism and mining, would provide new employment opportunities for Jamaican and Caribbean nationals who wished to return to contribute to the region’s economic development.

Ambassador Shirley was addressing students and faculty members on Monday, April 4th at Howard University, where he was the keynote speaker at a forum organized by the Howard University Career Services Office.

In his presentation, which was entitled, ‘Growing Career and Business Development Opportunities in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean’, Ambassador Shirley noted that “job opportunities that exist in the Caribbean are greater than they have ever been in the lifetime of anybody currently under 40 years”.

The Ambassador said that in the case of Jamaica, new employment opportunities were reflective of significant growth and dynamism in the hospitality industry, as well as other sectors, such as mining and information and communications technology (ICT).

“These job and career opportunities relate to the kinds of investments that are now being made in the country. Over the next five years we can expect to see a doubling of the capacity of hotels in the tourism industry. The number of rooms we have will also be doubled,” he noted.

The Ambassador attributed this increased interest in investing in the Caribbean, particularly in Jamaica, to Americans finding the Caribbean and its proximity more attractive since September 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked America.

Further aiding this new investment thrust was the rapid expansion of the Chinese economy, which continued to source raw materials to satisfy the growing demands of their consumer population. “Given this requirement, they have also shown an increased interest in investing in Jamaica, specifically in the bauxite/alumina industry,” he said.

Professor Shirley predicted a doubling of alumina production over the next five years, simply to meet the needs of China. With the new interest in investing in the Caribbean’s industries, the Ambassador assured the group that there were many opportunities emerging – not only in hospitality and related services – but also in construction and niche-market products.

Speaking to the issue of regional integration, Professor Shirley told the forum that “there is an integration, culturally and economically, that is far advanced”.

“Today, the banks in Trinidad and Tobago operate throughout the Caribbean. All the conglomerates now operate throughout the region. The Caribbean is evolving. Jamaica, for instance, no longer views itself as a country of 2.6 million people in the Caribbean. Jamaica considers itself to be a nation of 2.6 million that reside there and another 1.6 or 1.8 million that reside outside,” he added.

Like Jamaica, Professor Shirley asserted that the broader Caribbean was also transforming its operational protocol to take advantage of the skills and talents of the Diaspora community. “Adopting this definition is important, because it affords the country the opportunity to take advantage of a great natural resource. We view the human resource as our most important natural resource – not the sand, the sea, or bauxite – but our people,” he said.

The Ambassador pointed out that Howard University remained a repository of great Caribbean innovators and thinkers who, throughout the years, had made significant contributions to the economic and social development of the region.

“We view the alumni of Howard as a part of the Caribbean society. We view it as a source of human resources. If we are going to have growth, economic development, the building up of infrastructure, we think that a good place to look for talent is in the Diaspora and therefore we go to the universities where members of our Diaspora go, and Howard is an important source in that respect,” he said.

Ambassador Shirley also took the opportunity to encourage the students to establish relationships with their home Embassies as “they can help to open doors, they know where the opportunities are”. He also encouraged students to pursue internship prospects with their Missions, which would serve to acquaint them with current national development priorities.

The event, which kicked off the university’s Spring Career Week, ‘Global Connections Initiative’, was attended primarily by graduating seniors, as well as other students who are contemplating careers in international development or are exploring employment opportunities overseas.

This event is also a component of the Embassy of Jamaica’s new calendar of outreach initiatives – both in Washington and throughout the United States – which is aimed at deepening the Jamaican Mission’s contacts with community organizations and Jamaican philanthropic groups in the U.S.

A key objective is to further build and strengthen linkages with Jamaican and Caribbean student organizations through the staging of several issue-oriented forums, which will be addressed by the Ambassador as well as the senior diplomatic staff at the Embassy.

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