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The Caribbean: A Private Sector’s Challenge to Increasing Productivity and Growth – Part II

The 4th Industrial Revolution brings endless opportunities for the Caribbean. To exploit these opportunities, the private sector can partner with governments to deploy successful initiatives to prepare the current and future workforce for the emerging technologies.

The Caribbean: A Private Sector’s Challenge to Increasing Productivity and Growth – Part II

When we look at the Caribbean, we see that soft, higher cognitive and digital skills will require from its workers to be able to embark in the new era of human + machine collaboration. In this new era, interacting with digital platforms will be the norm.  However, the  Caribbean region is lagging in information and communication technologies (ICT) as well as their development and diffusion. Broadband technology is a priority and a complementary asset to human capital, but its adoption must be improved.

Automation and artificial intelligence will affect every aspect of current and upcoming business and the people working in these industries. Therefore, the current and future workforce needs to master new and emerging technologies and be able to interact with machine learning and artificial intelligence (human + machine collaboration). For example, the ability to operate and integrate unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to provide a new array of services (WATCH VIDEO: The Impact of Drones). There are also major opportunities from emerging technologies that may be missed if organizations do not adapt to embrace their potential.

Latin American countries such as Chile, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Panama rank number 38, 43, 44, and 55  respectively out of 139 globally, on the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index, while Caribbean countries lag significantly behind -Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and Guyana rank number 67, 83, and 100, respectively.

A new Caribbean workforce

As industries evolve and appropriate different technologies to succeed in the market, their demand for skills sets will also change. Alternative and innovative education methods such as online courses, nanodegrees, and private or nonprofit digital skills training programs (e.g. coding bootcamps) have emerged to address severe shortage of talent in the area of digital skills .

The public and private sector can partner to build the 4th Industrial Revolution workforce for the Caribbean.

There are many examples of such initiatives being successfully deployed, including in the Caribbean with IDB Group support. One  innovative way to attract private sector expertise in skills prioritization is through Competitive Funds, used in Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and currently being deployed in Jamaica. In Barbados, the Skills for the Future Program, awarded grants on a competitive basis to partnerships between the private sector and training institutions.

Another example of public and private sector partnerships is the BRIDGE Program in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, which focused on providing training opportunities in sustainable energy and ICT for teachers, students, and professionals. Looking at how these partnerships generate innovation on developing digital talent pipeline for upskilling and reskilling, an interesting ICT initiative from the Israel Innovation Authority has attracted the private sector to provide coding bootcamps, through performance contracts, and the program is expected to graduate 2,000 developers in five years.

The Global Services Skills Board (GSSB) (WATCH VIDEO: Global Services Skills Board) (, led by the private sector in the Caribbean to identify needed skills in sectors that are quickly evolving due to technology, is empowering workers to be able to capitalize on new opportunities within the industry (upskilling).

Upgrading women’s skills

Taking together the evidence on the impact of gender equality on higher productivity as well as the need for improved entrepreneurship skills in LAC, IDB Invest collaborates with financial intermediaries in the region to harness the potential of equality through the economic empowerment of women entrepreneurs with financing solutions, technical advice, and training. Women entrepreneurship Banking or “weBis an innovative service for female entrepreneurs, through which IDB Invest and IDB Lab have worked with 20 banks (one of them in Jamaica), and approved $800 million in loans and $5 million in technical assistance.

These partnerships with industry (WATCH VIDEO: Partnering with Industry) are essential in order to provide hands-on-learning and to guide the upskilling of employees on needed skills (WATCH VIDEO: Engaging Young People and Private Sector Participation). The industry needs to go from skills consumer to skills producer, and the private sector is now directing the skills they want to see in their employees.

The benefits of public and private sector participation in upgrading skills to embrace the 4th Industrial Revolution are endless. The private sector has a role in setting standards, in providing training, in expanding financing access to male and female—young and old—and in supporting the entrepreneurs who may transform ideas into business successes and economic growth.■


Adriana Valencia

Adriana M. Valencia is the Energy, Water and Sanitation, and Climate Change Officer in the Strategic Planning and Knowledge Division of IDB Invest,

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