By Jabari Fraser
A new project aimed at harnessing the talent and skills of the Caribbean diaspora has been launched in London.
The Caribbean Skills Bank seeks to attract people of Caribbean origin around the world. Its first step is to reach out to the UK-based diaspora through a website - Caribbean Skills Bank.com - which will match up professional skills to Caribbean needs.
The initial phase, unveiled on 7 June, will harness diaspora expertise to provide immediate support to the Caribbean during hurricane season 2019. Daniel Mullings, technical adviser to the skills bank, explained to Caribbean High Commissioners in London and Foreign & Commonwealth (FCO) officials at the launch how the website gives them the chance to tap into skills from the diaspora in times of emergency.
The website, complete with up-to-date data privacy and GDPR settings, allows professionals abroad, such as doctors, engineers, architects and IT specialists, to register their skills and make them available to Caribbean governments.
As Skills Bank Chairman Bertram Leon explained, the project grew from a meeting in 2016 of the Caribbean 2030 leaders’ think tank conference, held at the FCO’s Wilton Park centre in Sussex. He and two colleagues, including Caribbean Intelligence’s own Managing Editor, Debbie Ransome, and educational and project specialist Maureen Salmon, discussed the idea of a professional skills database. The devastating 2017 hurricane season provided the impetus to hone the first stage of the project.
Caribbean Skills Bank received support from the FCO and has been developed over the last year. “Many of us still have vivid memories of the utter devastation Hurricanes Maria and Irma inflected on the islands of Barbuda, Dominican, Anguilla and St. Maarten,” the FCO’s Director for the Americas, Hugo Shorter, told the launch. “In recent years, their ferocity and frequency seems to have intensified.” He said that this gave High Commissioners in London an important role to play.
Describing the Caribbean diaspora as a “significant yet poorly represented resource”, the FCO Director said that “today, we are more alive to their willingness to help, the accessibility of their skills and professional disposition to make a substantive difference in the lives and future history of the Caribbean”.
Caribbean Skills Bank Chairman Bertram Leon told Caribbean Intelligence©: “We envisage that Caribbean Skills Bank will present us with a great opportunity to assist the Caribbean to attract the best talent from its diaspora and connect Caribbean professionals with diaspora mentors for advice and support.
“Now more than ever, and in the wake of several natural disasters, climate change and changes in the world order, Caribbean nationals are looking to 'give back' to the region in ever-increasing numbers, and in new ways outside of just remittance-giving.
“So, we see this initiative developing, strengthening and expanding on our partnership, working and fostering and supporting the training and development of our future leaders in the region and, crucially, providing assistance to help Caribbean governments in their efforts to empower their overseas diaspora to act in consort on matters of common interest."
Caribbean Intelligence Editor and Skills Bank co-founder Debbie Ransome said that the initiative took support from the diaspora for the Caribbean to another level. “This project seeks to harness something different – our skills and expertise acquired outside of the Caribbean – to help the region when it’s needed,” she said.
Caribbean Skills Bank is now live and accepting registrations from willing professionals.