LEWIS: Gaston Browne’s Claimed Shortage of Skilled Construction Workers is an Admission of Failure


Gaston Browne’s Claimed Shortage of Skilled Construction Workers is an Admission of Failure

Gaston Browne has repeatedly claimed that there is a shortage of skilled construction workers on the island. These claims started back in 2018, when the UPP-attracted investor, Sunwing, upgraded the Royal Antiguan hotel into the new Royalton. Later, during Sunwing’s conversion of the defunct Halcyon Hotel into the Royalton Chic, the same claims were made.

Despite claims of a construction boom and an economic boom, our people still suffered through record unemployment and underemployment.

Given the deliberate absence of timely and reliable employment data, nothing the Prime Minister says can be taken at face value. However, if Gaston Browne’s claimed shortage of skilled construction workers is true, it is an admission of major failure.

The Prime Minister therefore needs to answer several questions on this failure:

1. Why has his government failed to advance the National Training Agency (NTA) in order to get more skilled workers certified through ABICE, while announcing dozens of projects over the last 10 years?

2. Why has his administration failed to inspire and facilitate more of our unemployed youth on their journeys towards receiving their Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (CVQs), and joining the construction workforce?

3. Why are there so many construction workers who continue to be unemployed, or grossly underpaid, despite his claims of a construction boom? And what has been done to ensure they are able to secure employment on whatever projects are available?

4. What is driving his obsession with importing workers from outside of the Caribbean? Is he planning to flood the country with cheap labour, and reduce the pay of local and Caribbean construction workers?

The NTA has been hampered in its Vision to establish an Antiguan & Barbudan workforce that is certified, competent, productive, enterprising and innovative, contributing to social and economic development.

It has been frustrated in its Mission to develop a qualified workforce that supports industry and national development through a system of competency-based education and training which is universally recognised.

The lack of funding threatens to undermine the NTA and render it useless. It is therefore prudent that it be given line item status in the national budget, and its finances supplemented by the Board of Education.

There is an opportunity to advance ABICE to a true higher education facility by adopting a model similar to that of the Human Employment and Resource Training/National Service Training Agency (HEART-NSTA) Trust in Jamaica, where skilled workers particularly are trained and certified. 

Further, given the Prime Minister’s boasts about underpaying National Housing workers by 40%, construction workers are rightly concerned about his plans to import labour from outside the region.

A serious government and a serious Prime Minister would have put measures in place over the last 10 years, to address the medium to long-term training needs of the construction sector. Instead, Gaston Browne complains about the same problems year after year, without delivering meaningful solutions.

Richard S. Lewis MP

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  1. The prime minister needs a face-lift now!!
    Labour rites don’t come for me!!
    I’m giving my opinion on this public forum!!🤔

  2. Why you don’t go sit to foock dung???!!! Your political career is on edge. You are a poor example of leadership to make a novice like Pringle bang yuh inna one convention. You now going around with yuh head all beaten up by Pringle. Yuh betta gwarn go check you head because something nah right with you thinking. Wha yuh write mek sense to you alone????!!!!

  3. Mr. Lewis is 100% correct. It’s an admission of abject failure, and if the PM had an ounce of decency, he would resign.

  4. Mr. Lewis you’re on the right track . This is a ploy to bring in cheap labor out of Mexico and the Philippines. Prole ard afraid to say it ,but even in the tourism industry ,more and more non nationals working and cannot even give a proper historical back ground of the country . We need leaders with long term plans for our country and people . The economy also needs to be diversify for us to be able to have real sustainable employment.

  5. Just open yoir eyes and all your questions would be answered. The youth of Antigua are satisfied with being just a laborer. Collect a 100 a day and thats sufficient to them. They have no desire to improve or learn a skill. Thats if you can actually get them to go to work “cause sun hot” the other are content with robbing ppl of dem hard earned dollar’s or corner begging. Please find one of the many other things to blane gaston abt because this aint it.

  6. What a stupid comment by Lewis. He is just trying to stay relevant and comment on everything to show up and embarass his Leader, Jamal Pringle. This is a relatively small population and our young people do not want to do hard work in the sun. That is reality. Ask any employer, indigenous or foreign.
    And even our trained people do not have the scope of experience as their experience is narrowed to this small island. I have said many times that no one at APUA has a clue what they are doing. Not that they do not have degrees but technology is changing every day. We need to find a way to send our people overseas to work in the big countries. We need to broaden their horizons.

  7. @ Rastaman chant over Jordan and OTTO


  8. Rastaman chat over jordan. Are you o blind to the obvious lack of vision for young people here. I’m sure Mr. Lewis is leaps and bounds ahead of you in terms of intelligence. Dunces like you cannot understand deep issues since your way of thinking is superficial, you one of them weed head that lime on the block? Rastaman you not thinking rational, how can in ten years we cannot train our people to handle labour here. What is really being done you believe foreigners will solve all our problems. Your son’s and daughters don’t have the skill to do these jobs, we are not directing these young people correctly. The government has failed them, the school system doesn’t work, a lot of young people are not working, some are not giving the opportunity. They need more guidance more programs to fill these gaps that they want to get foreigners for. I agree with Mr. Lewis.we in Antigua will never get better as a country and asa people if we can’t hold people accountable for there failures. The only rascl*t thing Gaston has done is line his own pockets. And you all do not see he poorly runs this country, never takes accountability, talks down to people. Let m tell you something he may be rich with money but he is a very poor man. For h cannot take his wealth to the grave. When he is gone antigua may be able to recover but for now. All we can do is watch the destruction of our country.

  9. Well said your Honourable Richard Lewis, you are only highlighting what Antiguans and Barbudans are witnessing with their very own eyes.

    Gaston Browne’s RHETORIC isn’t cutting with us, and his leadership must soon come to an end.

    The man has run out of gas (pun intended 😁), run out of any workable ideas, and his current ministerial tutelage has hit a road block.

    Remember Gassssston, cat foot soft, but he can scratch bad, bad, baaaad!

  10. @ OTTO, go to the bottom of the class!

    The Most Honourable Richard Lewis has the ABSOLUTE right to call out the opposition on any matters of State – isn’t that what opposing political parties suppose to do?

    The more you ABLP fruitcakes write utter nonsense, the more the merrier for critical-minded people like me.

    Remember OTTO, Brixtonian only needs a misplaced sentence, paragraph or even a word to pull any Gastonite apart … 😁

  11. No one believes Gaston rass. He only do what suite he creative self enrichment schemes.

    Gaston outright say he move people into his constituency in a desperate move to hold on to power and no one did shit about it.

    Now you have to deal with all this from lack of action. All chat and nothing else. You deserve what you get from Gaston.

  12. It would perhaps be helpful if first a comprehensive survey was done to find out how much local skill is in fact available amongst local unemployed construction workers, students in trade schools etc. and then ensure that they are included in some capacity in any new projects. How will they gain experience if they are never allowed to be a part of the team on major projects? There are also locals who have in fact lived abroad and worked on major projects, skyscrapers etc. I’ve met them myself. Perhaps persons like that could help guide a team of locals as part of the overall crew. “Foreigners” should always be welcome when needed, but we should always be trying to improve skills and find employment for people who live here as well.

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