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OCHO RIOS, Jamaica, Friday, July 19, 2019: In anticipation of passing its final hurdle in the Senate, the Ministry of Tourism has embarked on another round of awareness and sensitization sessions to get workers signed onto the Tourism Workers’ Pension Scheme.
The scheme has already received parliamentary approval and is expected to get the Senate’s seal of approval after inclusion of a number of recommendations from that body. It will then go to the Governor General for his assent after which regulations will be drafted for the plan to be rolled out in January 2020.
Minister of Tourism, Hon Edmund Bartlett, joined by Chair of Pension Scheme Oversight Committee, Hon Daisy Coke, sold the scheme to a representative gathering of various tourism stakeholders from the Ocho Rios area Wednesday July 17, at the Anglican Church Hall.
Describing it as a defined contractual scheme, Mrs Coke said for the first three years of its operation, employees will contribute 3 percent of their salary, matched by 3 percent from their employers. Thereafter, the rate will be increased to 5 percent. Self-employed persons will also be subjected to the 3 and 5 percent but will not have the benefit of a matching amount.
Minister Bartlett underscored the importance of getting more from the tourism industry by developing the capacity to be able to contribute better, more efficiently “and more fulfilling to ourselves because when we work we’re working just for the employer, we’re not working to boost productivity that will enhance the bottom line of some government; we’re working also for self-satisfaction.”
He said it was also important for workers to feel happy about what they do and having security of tenure, being remunerated appropriately and knowing that there was a social security arrangement with a social security net awaiting them after working very hard, would engender that happiness.
According to Mr Bartlett, “the potential size of this Tourism Workers’ Pension Scheme is going to be of a magnitude that Jamaica has never seen.” He said it was eight years in the making and was the first of its kind in the world.
With the ongoing expansion of the industry providing increased employment, Minister Bartlett stressed the importance of human capital development and training as the number one priority to improve the quality of what is being offered as the product and create an opinionated experience for visitors who will want to return and improve the 42 percent repeat business that the country now enjoys.
With the Hospitality and Tourism Management Programme already in place through 33 high schools offering an associate degree in hotel management; the Tourism Product Development Company’s TEAM Jamaica sensitizing to what the industry is all about; HEART NTA measuring and building competence; and the Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation offering on-the-job certification at various levels, he said the next step would be to have tertiary level training.
“The next level now for us is tertiary and post graduate qualification because our industry is one that is changing every day; it’s a new tourism that is emerging where technology is going to play a far more important role in the delivery of the experiences and services of the industry,” said Minister Bartlett, adding that “more and more hotels are going to become automated so that is going to have implications for the lower level employees in the sector. Our job therefore is to make sure that we are preparing the next workforce to be ITT competent and to be able to operate well within this post-industrial revolution.”
Starting October a partnership will begin with the University of the West Indies to establish a graduate programme in tourism that opens the door for persons to work through the system, write a thesis and obtain a Master of Science in Tourism. Minister Bartlett said utilising data, “we are going to find new ways of doing the same things that we have done over the years but better ways that are more efficient, more cost effective and offer more value.”