Published On: Mon, Aug 12th, 2013

Curacao’s STEM- averse hangover

Jacob Gelt DekkerSTEM education is an acronym for the study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in the United States in schools from kindergarten through college. STEM studies improve the nation's competitiveness in technological development. It has enormous implications for workforce development and immigration policy.

Curacao has a 100-year experience in oil refining, ship building and -repair and as freight logistics hub for South America. On the island, one would expect a large verity of training and educational courses catering to those unique industrial propositions. Unfortunately such is not the case.

After the flower- power revolution of the '60's and '70's , students massively flocked to Departments of Social Sciences, Law, Language and Business. STEM- studies were not the in- thing to do and today it is still not-done.

The STEM-professionals in the world of today became the Asians, the Chinese and Japanese. You find Asian engineers everywhere, from Timbuktu to Ushuaia, building roads, bridges,harbors, hospitals and entire cities And as we have witnessed , STEM creates wealth, lasting, enormous riches.

In stead, Curacao island is full of intellectuals who analyze and evaluate social behavior. Social workers, political science, tax experts and lawyers are in ample supply, but a well educated mechanical engineer can hardly be found. Our non-STEM professionals may be valuable debaters in political discussions but it is evident, non of them created any lasting wealth for the population. Even the Trust industry, moving and managing other people's money, may earn a descent living but do not create lasting wealth.

Many on the island dream of and advocate new developments like, Curacao Medical Center, Green Town, off-shore oil and gas exploitation, and Air Port City, with thousands and thousands of new jobs, but they seem to forget that non of those jobs can be filled by locals since the workforce continues to be shy of STEM -education. Thousands of Immigrants will have to be attracted to fill those vacancies, while at the same time, immigration laws do not welcome foreigners and give high priority to locals.

Even the largest employer on the island, the slowly growing hospitality industry, is limping due to a poorly trained local workforce. Curacao's hospitality product does not meet requirements of a luxury product due to lack of qualified staff and therefore declines rapidly into a Jack-in-the-Box mass market resort destination. The recent Hyatt Hotel debacle became a most painful experience for many politicians who were still dreaming of a new glorious future. The Curacao Space Port followed suit when the local airport lost its A-status qualification, and again, due to lack of technical training.

So, Curacao has an enormous structural problem, that can only be overcome in the short run by new immigration laws to attract the needed qualified workforce, that well fare and well being of the island is craving for. New STEM-educational initiatives should follow as soon as possible.

Curacao's STEM-averse hangover has lasted long enough. It is time for action.

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