Wednesday’s report on a record 248 graduations of the hospitality and culinary courses provided by St. Maarten Training Foundation (SMTF) confirmed what was already clear: The related Emergency Income Support and Training Programme (EISTP) is one of the best things that happened after the widespread and severe damage to resorts as well as other businesses caused by Hurricane Irma forced them to temporarily close.
It allowed so far about 1,800 un- or underemployed persons to receive a stipend, medical coverage and a small transportation allowance for attending classes, with another 1,100 currently enrolled. This helped many to cope financially, while upgrading their skills to improve their chances on the job market when properties reopened.
Ultimately, getting back to regular paid work was the end goal. Doing so is not becoming any easier because most places of business are by now operating again and fully staffed.
Opportunities remain, however, with several large resorts still to reopen, notably Flamingo and Royal Palm. Both timeshare properties of Diamond Resorts are completing their rebuilding process.
Labour Minister Pamela Gordon-Carty visited the company (see related story) and, according to her, was given assurances that the contractor will try to hire more local workers. It’s interesting to note the qualification “once the project can financially sustain it,” but the mutual intention appears to be good.
Speaking of which, it’s crucial that these resorts can reopen quickly and avoid delays due to not being able to import the necessary manpower. Construction jobs are important, but so is employment in the stayover tourism industry that to a large extent drives local economy.
One should not be at the cost of the other.