Why a Skills Bank Wouldn't Work
In an email a few months ago, a reader brought up an idea that many professionals have had, which is to establish a skills bank of Jamaican abroad that businesses and government agencies in Jamaica could use.
The idea is repeated in an article by Ricky Singh in today's Sunday Observer in which he says:
Strengthening the dialogue with Community nationals of the Diaspora located across the USA, especially in major centres like New York and Washington, undoubtedly holds promise for mutual benefits, particularly, it is felt, if pursued within the context of clearly defined policies and programmes. This may require having some basic data on the size, talents and resources of the Diaspora community.
Question is, for all the "ole talk" by Caricom government leaders ... there is an absence of evidence that any concrete initiative has been undertaken to establish what is recognised to be a valuable tool - skills data bank.
The argument by advocates of a skills data bank to include valuable human resource located among nationals of the Caribbean Diaspora in North America and the UK, is that it is essential to better mobilise much-needed skills in, for example, the health and education sectors in the member states of our 15-member Community.On the surface, it seems to be a good idea.
In my reply to the reader who repeated the idea, I had an insight -- the reasons why a skills bank does not work can be overcome by technology that has only recently been invented, and is being widely used -- Facebook.
The reason why a list of people and their skills doesn't work is that no-one actually does business by calling professionals from a list, unless they are desperate. Here in the Caribbean, as in most countries, the first place that people look to find expertise is among a current network of contacts -- family, friends and colleagues.
It's just a better idea to find the person you want by asking around the people you know, to find out who they might know. A personal referral trumps a name on a list any day.
If, instead of having to make ten phone calls, you had a way to search all your friends' network to find out who they know and trust, and you could do this search efficiently, while they are sleeping, you would use it often.
Facebook happens to be an excellent tool for just that purpose.
The difference between a raw list of names and skills, and a social networking site is the network of people and their connections that brings a name on a page into relief.
I suggested to the reader that she join Facebook and she said that she's not really into that kind of thing. Many professionals aren't, but it's a guarantee that those who are reluctant to use networking tools will never become more than a name on a page.
The fact is, Facebook is already becoming the only skills bank of its kind -- there is no need to reinvent the wheel. The typical arguments that people have against joining -- not having enough time or wanting privacy -- are the very same reasons a "skills bank" won't work.