~ Aims to stem brain drain ~
PHILIPSBURG--Students who are just out of high school and qualify for admission or have been admitted to study at University of St. Martin (USM) and who maintain a high grade point average will be given first preference for job openings at The Windward Islands Bank (WIB) and utilities company GEBE.
This is one aspect of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce, USM, WIB and GEBE on Monday. Another aspect of the MOU is that the two companies involved also will promote the upgrading of their employees by encouraging them to pursue studies at the university.
The next batch of high school graduates who meet the criteria for the initiative will come into consideration. Qualifying students will have to sign up at the Chamber of Commerce. To qualify, a student must be just out of high school, qualify for or be accepted into a USM programme and maintain a grade point average of at least 2.5 or higher.
WIB and GEBE will give students first preference for entry-level positions that open at their establishments by choosing students who qualify from among those who sign up at the Chamber.
The number of students hired and the duration of their employment is left to the discretion of the business, reporters were told at a press conference at the Chamber on Monday.
Chamber Executive Director Claret Connor said the intention was not to replace the task of the Labour Office. The initiative is seen by MOU signatories as one that can stem brain drain in the country and encourage studying at USM.
The Chamber is hoping to get more businesses on board. Chamber Board President Tamara Leonard said this initiative would allow students coming out of high school who qualify for admittance to USM to attend university in St. Maarten and be able to obtain work experience here.
She said students would be able to juggle work and education at home and if they decided to continue studies abroad they would be motivated to return to their homeland on completion of their studies, to contribute to its development.
GEBE Chief Operations Officer Romelio Maduro said the utilities company is honoured to be a part of this initiative. He said human resources were the most important aspect in any company and St. Maarten could be on a much higher level and achieve its goals with more quality workers through education. Maduro said finding quality personnel "is a challenge" at times in the region and in St. Maarten.
"But we believe that with this initiative, we can achieve that. We believe that other companies can also follow this initiative and get on the bandwagon. We have many young professionals who go abroad and most times they remain abroad, but this will be an initiative where they can remain here. We don't want to keep on maintaining a brain drain. We want to limit the brain drain and we want to focus on our own people," Maduro said.
WIB Managing Director Derek Downes said the bank also was happy to be involved in this programme. "I am always for an initiative to build our young people and education is one of the foundations of that. It is sometimes difficult to get quality people and this will encourage students to further their education by giving them an opportunity to get employment at a reputable institution."
He said WIB took its corporate responsibility very seriously. "It's not just about giving donations and sponsorship, but it can reach a little further and reach our young people."
He said WIB had existing employees who had not had an opportunity to further their studies and the MOU also encourages existing employees to further their education at USM. Just recently WIB approached USM to design a special programme for its middle-management staff to upgrade themselves.
"We intend on raising the level of competency among staff to be able to provide top-class service to our clients. This is in sync with our strategy to make our employees better," he said.
USM President Annelies Oliver-van den Assem said the university had been focussing on an initiative like this for a few years now. "We believe that we in St. Maarten can do it together. We need each other," she said.
The chamber said it was in discussion with two other companies for another aspect of this initiative.