Last Friday the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce in collaboration with Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB) provided a forum for stakeholders to have a discussion on Economic Development in Trinidad and Tobago and the Region.

The format was an animated presentation given by Keith Duncan on the Jamaica experience and lessons learned, followed by a panel discussion lead by of Dr. Marlene Attzs (Moderator), Ronald Hinds (President of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce), Terrence Farrell (Chairman of T&T’s Economic Development Advisory Board), and Keith Duncan (Co-chairman of Jamaica’s Economic Programme Oversight Committee – EPOC).

Keith Duncan gave an overview of Jamaica’s economic woes explaining why they needed to turn to the IMF for funding. His presentation included a statistic driven account of the progress that Jamaica had made over the last year. Duncan highlighted their major priorities for economic growth, which included macro-economic stability, reduction in crime, a debt to GDP ratio of 60%, and maintaining comfortable NIR levels. Duncan indicated that Trinidad and Tobago’s economic position was salvageable; saying that our debt to GDP ratio was more favourable than Jamaica’s. He suggested that we should not wait until our backs were against the wall before choosing to act. Duncan explained that the key to Jamaica’s successful implementation of policies and fiscal measures was ongoing public consultation and community activity, this helped EPOC to gain buy-in from the population. Duncan also mentioned that there was public accountability and transparency for achieving pre-determined targets for economic progress, and the establishment of three independent oversight bodies aided with this – the Economic Growth Council (EGC), the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), and the Public Sector Transformation Oversight Committee (PSTOC).

During Dr. Marlene Attzs’ opening remarks she made reference to Trinidad and Tobago’s current state of Economic Stillness. The panel discussion revolved around overcoming this. Dr. Terrence Farrell gave some compelling arguments for diversifying away from the Oil and Gas Sector. Farrell commented that “Lower for Longer” oil and gas prices, depleting natural gas reserves, and Trinidad’s high oil production price were all signals that our Nation’s dependence on the Energy Sector was not sustainable. Ronald Hinds supported Dr Farrell’s perspective. The discussion continued around the need to adjust our foreign exchange rate and reduce Trinidad and Tobago’s reliance on imports while increasing exports from other sectors. Dr Farrell alluded to seven alternate sectors with seven enablers that could assist in boosting the economy.

Questions and comments were taken from participants across the floor including Marla Dukharan (Chief Economist at Bitt Inc. and former Group Economist at RBC Caribbean), Howard Dottin (Programme Director at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business), as well as a cross section of business leaders from various industries in the Private Sector. The majority of comments were in support of the panelists’ perspective. It is interesting to note that there were no decision makers from Government Ministries in attendance.

 

When searching for that first job Caribbean students are often trapped in an exasperating chicken and egg scenario. You need work experience to be considered for the position but employers are reluctant to give you that first job until you have work experience.

The secret to getting past this initial challenge is to work hard during your undergraduate years. Good grades always help but grades will only get you so far. How does one bridge that gap between University and work? The answer: look for internship opportunities and enroll to gain work experience during term breaks or apply for one of the few coveted “on campus jobs”. If you take an assignment every summer you are likely to gain six to nine months’ work experience while at university. Also don’t shy away from taking low level roles and working your way up. This is an excellent way to learn the ropes; many of the world’s strongest leaders started their careers this way.  The key to success is humbleness, once you get an opportunity be prepared to use your initiative, offer to assist with tasks, and maintain a high level of mental engagement so you learn quickly on the job.

Are you interested in changing jobs or casually looking at your options?

It’s important to note that most people don’t move for money. Motivation for career change often comes from a desire for career progression or a need to find a culture fit that’s more suitable.

With this in mind I advise candidates to take a practical approach to salary negotiations. A good rule of thumb is to expect an increase in salary of 10% or less. Also you should think of justifiable reasons why you deserve that 10% increase. Experienced professionals often move jobs because that are primarily focused on the role, remuneration is secondary.

To be through you may want to conduct research to understand what the current market rate is for similar jobs within your industry, bearing in mind that in Trinidad and Tobago the same job could have a vastly different salary range across different industries or different size businesses.

Also remember that good negotiations are based on give and take. If you are pushing for a higher salary be prepared to work long hours to deliver outstanding performance in return.

T&T’s inaugural Clean Energy Conference was well attended. The Energy Chamber did an excellent job of facilitating. Participants and presenters appeared to have aligned goals; to achieve a 15% reduction in T&T’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and to have 10% of our energy come from renewable sources by 2021. The impetus for these goals came from the Paris Agreement.

The major players that contribute to industrial emissions in T&T appear to be onboard with achieving the outlined objectives. Both NGC and T&TEC gave excellent presentations that signaled their commitment to the process.  Having said that, there was no clear indication from the Power Generators (Powergen, TGU and Trinity Power) regarding whether they would be open to switching all their generation units to the more efficient combined cycle option. At the moment TGU uses a combined cycle facility.

On a couple occasions it became glaringly obvious that two key things must happen before any action is taken; revisions must be made to the T&TEC Act and the Regulated Industries Act. Such revisions will allow individuals to feed their excess (renewable) energy on to the national grid.  In this regard we are relying on Government Ministries to jump-start the process, or to put it another way, to remove the legal obstacles.

Other areas for improvement include government or agency incentives for individuals wishing to switch their homes or cars over to green or renewable energy sources. The cost of solar panels and wind turbines is substantial. Infrastructure also needs to be put in place e.g. charging ports for electric or hybrid vehicles, or CNG stations for cars wishing to switch from traditional gas or diesel tanks to CNG.

Info on the conference:
http://energynow.tt/clean-energy-conference/

Susan’s Snippets
Christmas is in the air, carols and parang are on the radio, glitter is in the malls, and of course parties are inviting. For many businesses, this is their busiest time of the year. For recruiting companies, it’s probably the quietest as decisions on hires are often postponed until January So, for us it’s a time to catch our breaths, tidy our files, and strategise for the upcoming year. Then we are prepared for the recruitment rush in January. In the meantime, Merry Christmas and a prosperous and healthy New Year to all our subscribers.

Sign Before You Resign
You’ve aced the interviews, negotiated the best package, and now the great news – they want to hire you! You’re excited and can’t wait to tell your boss that you’re out of there. Of course you want to be fair and give your current employers as much notice as possible, so once the start date is agreed, you tell your company you’re leaving on that date. Only one thing bothers you: your new employers haven’t sent you the actual offer to sign yet. As time goes on, and you keep getting put off, or worse, no response to your phone calls and emails, the harsh reality sinks in. There is no offer and you have no job to go to.

Does this nightmare scenario sound familiar? Sadly, I have heard it many, many times. What happens to these job-offer victims? If they swallow their pride and ask for their old job back, they are marked as disloyal and a high risk to leave. Therefore, they will be overlooked for promotion and the better career opportunities and even training. Chances are they will leave within the year, quite humiliated.

They could take their chances on the job market which means risking a few months with no income. Again, this can be quite a blow to their self-esteem if they suffer rejections from other employers, and this can turn into a repeated cycle if their low-self-esteem and depression is the reason they don’t get the job offers.

I remember one case where the prospective employee resigned his current job so he could start researching the project he was to work on in his new job. He didn’t know that after his would-be employers told him that he got the job, the person who used to do that job approached them to work with them again. They didn’t tell this job-offer victim until the day before he was due to start work. He was devastated and felt cheated because he actually started doing the work.

Many years ago, a friend of mine accepted a dream job abroad. She gave up her rented accommodation and was at the airport waiting to board the plane when she was approached by a representative of the company to say that the job was no longer available. Can you imagine how she felt, with no place to live, no job, no income and carrying all her worldly possessions? She ended up staying by me as I lived close to the airport. It was months before she got another job and moved out.

I know of a recent case where the victim was a returning national, and on the basis of a verbal offer, he gave up his job, sold his house, sent his family back to Trinidad, and even turned down other offers. In fact, he uprooted his life on the expectation of this high-paying job. Eventually, the hiring company informed him that they felt it was imprudent to make such an expensive hire in these uncertain times.

One common thread in all these cases is that the hiring company that changes their minds about the hire, never tell the job-offer victim until the very last minute. They avoid all contact with the person, who ends up digging themselves deeper into trouble. In almost every case, the job-offer victim did not insist on signing a contract of employment before announcing their intention to leave. They want to accommodate their new employer as much as possible and the paper-work just seems to be a minor issue. And we’re not talking about fly-by-night companies either. Most of the time, the would-be employers are well-known and respected companies, even at a global level.

Please, please, always sign an employment contract before you resign. Even if this delays your new start date, it is better this way than you being left high and dry. You have been warned!

Tell Us What You Think
We would love to hear what you think of this issue of CRS News. And of course, if you have any suggestions for upcoming issues that you would like to share with us, please send those too.

Susan’s Snippets
I have to apologise for the extra long gap since our last newsletter. This has been due to an unprecedented demand on my time to deal with new business, internal reorganisation and other issues. It is my intention to always keep this newsletter going on at least a bi-monthly basis.

This issue’s topic is a short extract from a presentation, entitled “Globalisation of Recruitment – Leveraging of Technology”, that I gave at the recent HRMATT Conference & Exposition in Trinidad.

Newsflash – The Information & Communications Society (ICTS) has announced that nominations are being accepted for their inaugural Excellence in ICT Awards for both individuals and projects. See http://www.icts.org.tt/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=48&Itemid=164 for more information and application forms. The deadline for applications is Friday November 2, 2007. There is great prestige associated with being a nominee so consider entering yourself or other deserving people.

Coping with Emailed Resumes
Many of you have to get involved with recruiting at some point. This means that job vacancies are advertised and you have to deal with the influx of resumes in the form of paper, CDs, emails and so forth.

To make your life much simpler, I recommend that you accept resumes only in the form of emails. Don’t even advertise an address or a telephone number – just state that all resumes should be sent to, for example, resume@companyX.com. These days, most jobs require an ability to communicate by email so it shouldn’t be that hard for applicants to comply with this.

The great advantage of doing this is that you can leverage technology to make the recruiting process much more effective and efficient.

Would advertising produce a deluge of emailed resumes? There is an abundance of software out there that will scan emailed resumes and extract skills to automatically create candidate records. You can then use the software to find candidates on this database that match your particular skill requirements. The software will also allow you to track the recruitment process so you are in control.

You will save a lot of time and the search for the right candidate will be far more accurate. Try searching on the Internet for “recruiting software” to see which product suits you best. Of course, your company may prefer to design and create its own recruitment software. In all cases, considerable thought and effort must go into setting up a “skills catalogue” to define the names of the skills that will be used in the skill extraction process as well as the skills search process.

One big advantage of receiving all your applications by email is that you can set the receiving email address to automatically acknowledge receipt of the applications. For example, say you advertise that all job applications are to go to resume@companyX.com. You can set an option on that email address to always respond with a message like “Thank you for submitting your application to Company X. We will review it and contact you should we find that you are suitable for an existing vacancy”.

It is much quicker, easier and cheaper to have standard acceptance and rejection emails, compared to corresponding by letter or telephone. It is not a substitute for the personal touch during the recruiting cycle, but it sure helps automate handling of the rejects.

Also, you no longer need a filing cabinet for all those job applications, and a big garbage bag (for the unsuitable résumés). Emailed applications can be quickly filed in appropriate PC “folders” and unsuitable ones are simply deleted. Now all those potential candidates are easily accessible (and searchable) whenever you like.

Plus this process lends itself to easy back-ups. No fears of a fire or flood wiping out your filing cabinets full of carefully collected paper resumes that are not copied anywhere else! You are in control and the recruiting process appears slick and very professional to the applicants.

Of course it is always easier to use a recruitment agency that embraces all this technology and does all the leg work for you and then all you need see is the screened, short-listed candidates. Happy recruiting!

Tell Us What You Think
We would love to hear what you think of this issue of CRS News. And of course, if you have any suggestions for upcoming issues that you would like to share with us, please send those too.

Susan’s Snippets
As you may have seen in the local newspapers, CRS is still celebrating our 10th anniversary of service.

I have been particularly moved by the glowing testimonials we’ve received from candidates and clients and these are now published on both of our websites (see http://www.crsitjobs.com/Testimonials.htm for the I.T. recruitment reviews). Thank you all for your support and I am glad to have served you over the years.

Employee vs Employer Market
Are we in an Employee or Employer market right now in T&T? It depends on what industry we’re talking about.

There are some I.T. skills which are very hard to find e.g., I.T. Salespeople, Project Managers, Internet Security Specialists to name a few. Most other I.T. skills are readily available, and so I would say it’s still an Employer’s Market for I.T.

Employers usually have the luxury of being able to choose an I.T. employee from a selection available, and so personality and other soft skills are the main criteria to fit the team. Having said that, there has been a steady demand for good I.T. staff and this has caused salaries to rise in recent years.

Really good, experienced people in any discipline always command a premium rate because there are so few of them around. When employers cannot find the skills they need and they are desperate, then you will see tactics like poaching and counter-offers taking place to get/keep necessary skills to do the work.

Even when candidates really do not have the experience or depth of knowledge required, they may still be rare enough to find their salaries shoot up when they decide to test their marketability. I have heard of at least one case where an Oil & Gas Engineer went to his employers saying he’d got a job offer. They counter-offered and a battle took place over him.
When the dust settled, he was still in the same job at nearly double his original salary. The irony was that he wasn’t considered all that great at his job; it’s just that there wasn’t anybody out there to replace him.

It’s definitely an Employee’s Market right now for several disciplines within the Energy Sector in T&T, such as Civil/Structural Engineers, Process Engineers, QA/QC Specialists, Quantity Surveyors, Drillers and so on. Service companies are having a tough time finding resources at prices that they can afford after bidding for projects. Sometimes there is no other option but to bring in ex-pats at many times the cost of local employees.
The benefit of that, in theory, is that the experienced ex-pat can pass on his international expertise and knowledge to our locals.

There is a lot of good talent undergoing training within the Energy industry in T&T and one day, they will have that knowledge and experience to make them in demand internationally. They will be the ex-pats called in around the globe to help Oil & Gas companies get the job done and bring their locals up to a world-class standard. When that time comes, CRS will be in a position to help them find those lucrative jobs anywhere in the world. We have eyes on the world!

Tell Us What You Think
We would love to hear what you think of this issue of CRS News. And of course, if you have any suggestions for upcoming issues that you would like to share with us, please send those too.

I invested my money to hear Mr. Bob Dudley, Group Chief Executive, BP PLC, speak at the Energy Chamber Breakfast Presentation before the recent AGM.  That was a great decision!  His projection for global energy growth (36% by 2030, with natural gas being the fastest growing fuel) certainly caught my interest.

Mr. Dudley said that T&T’s LNG is ranked 6th in the world and is responsible for 17% of BP’s world production, and will not be blown away by USA shale gas.  New technologies are unlocking reserves, discovered decades ago, but previously inaccessible.  Encouraged by the potential of the Columbus Basin – offshore and onshore – BP is investing $6 billion in this country.  He expects increased investment in exploration, encouraged by new and competitive tax incentives.  Local maintenance work is showing increased efficiencies and safety, and production will be normalised by 2014.  T&T’s model of using gas for downstream industries “punches above its weight” globally and other countries are examining what we do to apply to their own industries.

With regard to the hot topic of Local Content, Mr. Dudley assured us that BP’s policy is to use local content, but added that local companies should themselves be open to international business.  He also commented that there are more Trinis working for BP globally than there are expats working for BP in Trinidad!

Afterwards, the Minister of Energy, the Honorable Kevin Ramnarine, mentioned the often quoted statement “when BP sneezes, Trinidad catches a cold”.  Well, perhaps the converse is “When BP smiles, Trinidad laughs”.   I know I am very happy!

Susan’s Snippets
It’s back to work now that everyone has returned from their “Summer” holidays. That means that more new jobs are coming on the market and I have been asked to share some of the résumé writing tips that we give our candidates to help them portray themselves to best effect.

6 Tips for Writing a Winning Résumé
There is plenty of advice on the Internet on how to write good résumés and what to put in it. Space does not allow me to go into great detail here, so this is my own view of of a few things that I have found to work well.

1) Proper English, accurate spelling and good grammar
We were all taught this at school yet it’s surprising how many people do not even bother to do a spell check before sending out their résumés. This portrays you as sloppy and uneducated, and you won’t get a second look from the HR department unless they know that you won’t be required to write any reports or documentation.

2) Good layout of information
Remember that most HR people have to skim through hundreds of résumés sometimes to pick out the good ones. They may take 10 seconds to decide if yours is worth considering. Make sure that they can quickly and easily pick out what YOU want them to read. So give them a brief outline of your skills and put your most recent jobs at the top of your list of companies worked. Clearly state what each job entailed and the skills used.
Education, courses taken, references, hobbies, etc., can be placed after this as they would only look for this detail if you have already caught their attention. CRS recommends the layout given on our website http://www.crsitjobs.com/resume.htm.
Always write in the ‘first person’ rather than the ‘third person’ as the latter style makes it look like someone else wrote the résumé for you.

3) Keep it short and concise
You may have had a busy career with a long list of jobs, each with interesting skills to high-light. If your résumé is more than 3 pages long, then cut it down! No one will find the time to read your accomplishments of 10 years ago and may skip your recent ones as well if they are faced with a volume of information.
Keep any job description over 8 years ago to 1 or 2 sentences. Any skills used then are probably irrelevant now in the fast-paced world of technology. You can leave out minor jobs altogether, so long as this doesn’t leave a significant time gap between jobs listed.

4) Put in dates
Always put in dates for your jobs and education. Otherwise it looks like you are trying to hide something.

5) Don’t be too fancy
As an agency, we hate when candidates put in fancy colours, complicated formatting, tables and graphics as we have to do a certain amount of style changing to conform to our own standards, put in our logo, etc. Avoid referring an employer to your online résumé as this takes time on their part and they may be unwilling to make the effort.

6) Skills Matrix
We encourage our technical candidates to put their skills with competency level, years experience and when last used, in a chart format at the back of their résumés (see http://www.crsitjobs.com/resume.htm#matrix). Our clients have found this extremely useful as they can then quickly assess whether someone has the skill profile that they are looking for.

Good luck with writing that killer profile of yourself!

Tell Us What You Think
(Referring to our last newsletter “Retaining I.T. Staff”)

What makes you want to work for a company? Usually it’s because you admire the challenges that the employees in that company face in terms of the solutions that they develop for their customers, you are eager to work with the technology that this company has available or quite simply the expertise that is available makes you want to just bask in the glow of brilliance (ok I’m laying it on a bit thick.. but you get my drift). Money issues are secondary concerns.
We all have our bills, but in my opinion many people would take a pay cut if they are able to go to work somewhere that challenges them to work creatively, productively and encourages communication of ideas… It just means they would have to come up with creative budgeting measures.
Companies need to do some re-evaluating. Are they willing to be looked at as a revolving door, knowing that people view you simply as a stepping stone, or do you want to be seen as a company where I.T. personnel aspire to work because they know that they would be able to grow as the company grows? … Shelly-Anne

We would love to hear what you think of this issue of CRS News. And of course, if you have any suggestions for upcoming issues that you would like to share with us, please send those too.

Susan’s Snippets

Thank you for the interest shown in the launching of this newsletter.  If you know anyone else who might like to read it, then please feel free to pass it on to them.

After the first newsletter was sent out, I received some disturbing news that certain local agencies are using CRS’s name to convince people that they are genuine about finding them overseas jobs for a fee. Please scroll down to the next section “Tell Us What You Think” to read my comment on this.

Retaining Technical Staff

It’s common knowledge that it’s an employee’s market in the Energy industry worldwide. Here in Trinidad, there are not enough skilled and suitably experienced people working in the industry and they are being desperately sought after by several companies, often bidding for the same work.  So how does an employer try to keep their in-demand staff?

From my own experience, there are 3 main elements that will affect whether an employee is happy or not – the job itself, the office environment and commutation concerns.  If all 3 are good, then this employee is very happy and will not leave.  If only 2 are good, then this employee may be content but would be open to better offers.  If only 1 is good, then this person will be looking for another job.

If none are present, then you have a seriously unhappy individual who is desperate to leave. Clearly, this is a simplistic view and people will have different emphases on which elements are important to them.

1) The Job
Job interest is particularly important to technical people who thrive in a challenging role. If the job becomes too much the same, day in and day out, then they will get bored and look for something more stimulating. Development and training in new skills is important for an I.T. professional to maintain their marketability.

Often, the nature of the work is more important to an individual than the salary, though an underpaid person will probably feel discontented. A highly paid individual is unlikely to be more happy just because of their salary. Nevertheless, people may be tempted to move jobs simply to earn very high salaries, presumably because they (or their families) can enjoy luxuries because of it.

Working long hours for a long period of time is extremely stressful and can lead to ‘burn out’, so why do people do it? Often, staff are motivated to make whatever personal sacrifices are necessary to complete a project by a deadline imposed by their employer. But afterwards, the ‘down’ after the ‘high’ of the adrenaline of team effort can lead to depression and demotivation.

2) The Office Environment
By office environment, I mean the building, the office arrangement and the people the employee has to work with. If the office is shabby or the desks are too close together or otherwise unpleasant to work in, then this is bound to affect the people who work there.

In addition, office politics can have seriously debilitating effects on a person’s psyche, whereas being part of a cheerful and supportive team is very uplifting to most people. How well employees relate to their boss and how well respected they are in their jobs are also major factors in how happy they are at work.

3) Commutation Concerns
Commuting to work can be very stressful and occupies a great deal of unproductive time if it involves travelling for over an hour in slow moving traffic. Some people get round this by changing their hours of work to come in either before or after the morning rush hour, but this still means having much less personal time at home. ‘Telecommuting’ or working from home is becoming more popular because of the increased difficulty in getting to work in a reasonable time.

All I can advise is that companies who want to retain their staff should listen to the concerns of their employees, and be prepared to change those elements that are within their power to change in order to maintain a happy working environment for everyone. The reward is a contented and productive team and a low turn-over of hard-to-replace staff.

Tell Us What You Think
(Referring to our last newsletter “Job Scams”)

It has been brought to my attention that there are companies who advertise in the Classifieds section of the local newspapers and offer overseas job-finding services for a fee. This fee is “refundable” should they not find you a job. Please note that Caribbean Resourcing Solutions (CRS) is not associated in any way with any agency or company purporting to find overseas jobs for individuals.

The following website has some interesting comments about one of these companies, Caledonian Offshore: http://www.oilcareers.com/content/community/board/view.asp?
mode=viewtopic&topicID=634

This is a common scam. Please be very wary and investigate the company name on the Internet before handing over any money to an employment agency for foreign jobs.

We would love to hear what you think of this issue of CRS News. And of course, if you have any suggestions for upcoming issues that you would like to share with us, please send those too.