Atlantis Struggles With Skills Shortage

Friday 19th, April 2013 / 08:39 Published by

The top executive at Atlantis says that on any given day the mega resort has 300 to 400 job vacancies, a figure that will shoot up to 600 or more by the time it finishes its restaurant and casino expansion this summer.

George Markantonis, the president and managing director, insisted that there are many positions “we cannot get people for”. Speaking to Guardian Business from his office, the top executive listed off various positions advertised online for which Bahamians are being sought: Cooks, painters, a kids facility manager, an IT service support manager, a concierge and an assistant director of marine mammals.

“Some jobs are skilled and some are not skilled. It is a matter of getting people who want these jobs,” he explained. “I can tell you, these numbers are facts. Every day, there are 300 to 400 open positions.”

By August, job opportunities at Atlantis will rise
considerably once it lifts the curtain on a multimillion-dollar Olives restaurant, sports betting facility and poker room.

The disclosure by the country’s largest private sector employer sheds more light on the current labor and work permit debate. It also echoes similar concerns by officials at Baha Mar, the up-and-coming mega resort on Cable Beach, which recently stated that it was hard pressed to fill the thousands of positions needed by the end of 2014.

“When you think about the number of offerings that are going to be available at Baha Mar, both within the hotels and our retail village, we are going to be very hard pressed to find people,” according to Kristen Wells, director of the Baha Mar Academy. “We are faced with traditional shortages in more obvious professions like food and beverage, wait staff, restaurant managers, assistant restaurant managers, front and back of house. Room supervision is another area that people overlook, [and that’s] a management position within the hotel.”
Linked with the apparent labor shortage is an ongoing debate between government and the private sector concerning work permits. Officials have pledged a “crackdown” on work permits, while the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) has pushed for more transparency and efficiency in the approval process.

Either way, Baha Mar and Atlantis, the present and future employers of this country, agree that there are plenty of jobs to be had.
Winston Rolle, the outgoing CEO of the BCCEC, told Guardian Business that education and societal issues are major stumbling blocks to reducing unemployment.

“If you are an employer, you want to give a task and not have to worry about it. You don’t want to micro-manage and baby sit,” he said yesterday. “I think education is part of it. I think it’s also socialization.

We have over the years developed a heavy entitlement. So the question is, when does that entitlement stop? When do we take responsibility?”

A recent study released by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), entitled “Analysis of The Bahamas’ 2012 Wages and Productivity Survey”, noted that 62 percent of firms had an employee resign or be dismissed in 2010-2011. The most common reason for dismissal was “problems with behavior”, coming in at a whopping 65 percent.

In terms of productivity, a quarter of all businesses surveyed felt a skills shortage was the biggest obstacle. Other factors impacting productivity were higher costs related to import duties and 28 percent noted the high cost of machinery and equipment.

When it came to employee performance, bosses said 15 percent of employees arrived at work late. Around eight percent took a longer break for lunch than allotted.

The IDB report highlighted the need for improved “soft skills”, such as teamwork, responsibility and problem solving.

“In terms of the training programs, more interactions among stakeholders would lead to more training conducted on the job in order to develop specific skills that are job relevant,” the report stated. “The employers’ focus on soft skills in The Bahamas also suggests a critical focus in the coming years on improving such soft skills. Experimental and adaptation of new soft skill programs should be tested with different groups of the current and future workforce, so that the training experience is more specific to impacting results.”

By Jeffrey Todd
Guardian Business Editor

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