Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Bahamian Charmaine Bourbon is helping hundreds of New Yorkers improve their skills and access opportunities through the New York Department of Small Business Services’ Workforce1 programme, and says she’s also keen to train and develop talent at home in Nassau.
Bourbon moved to New York from Nassau three years ago in need of a fresh start and, in May 2013, took a job with workforce development company Grant Associates Inc. Starting as a sourcing manager, Bourbon quickly progressed and in October last year became a community partner manager. In this role she helps deliver the New York Department of Small Business Services’ Workforce1 programme, which connects job seekers with opportunities throughout the city.
Based in the Brooklyn Workforce1 Career Center, Bourbon is responsible for developing relationships with the community in order to place job seekers in the finance and insurance, food and hospitality, administration and healthcare sectors, among others. Last year she placed 644 candidates, beating her year-end target of 495.
Bourbon says her success in the job is due in part to being Bahamian. Growing up in a small community such as Nassau, she says, taught her the value of good relationships and professional connections. And as a Bahamian abroad, she is proud to share her heritage with others. “I’m always talking about home. I feel a responsibility to represent my country,” she says. “People know that I’m Bahamian. It’s one of the first things I tell them about myself.”
While Bourbon is passionate about her work with Workforce1 and looking forward to new challenges in 2016, she says that she would also like to use her knowledge and experience to benefit job seekers in The Bahamas.
Bourbon, who has over 20 years experience in human resources, has previously worked with The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) to deliver training programmes on leadership skills. She also helped draw up plans with BCCEC for the development of a learning institute. The project was never completed, but Bourbon says there is still an urgent need for training and development in The Bahamas to help young people access opportunities.
“We need to change the system,” she says, adding that any programme would require the cooperation of a number of government ministries, including the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Tourism. “It needs to be bipartisan, and everyone needs to be onboard. There is a need to incorporate trade-based training, the market is going to have lots of different opportunities. People need to have those conversations about skill sets.
“I would love to come back and have an opportunity to open up that dialogue. Nassau can be Manhattan. It can be sophisticated, but we have to give people a chance and be open to new ideas.”
Improving skill sets in The Bahamas is something Bourbon is particularly passionate about. She says the younger generation of professionals need to be proactive about boosting their resumes.
“It is not about waiting until you have your degree. It is about how you are going to brand yourself. The Bahamas is very competitive, there are not that many opportunities so you have to think about making yourself different. Connect to the right kinds of people. Start thinking about what your resume looks like and what you want it to look like. Everything you do should support that vision.”