WorkInSriLanka, a volunteer-led initiative to advocate Sri Lanka as an attractive destination for highly skilled individuals and high caliber businesses, was launched at a forum at the Taj Samudra, Colombo, on May 14 with Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal as the Chief Guest.
The forum comprised key public sector officials, industry leaders, heads of international non-government organizations, representatives of all major industries and relevant government institutions, and civil society experts.
In the initial phase, WorkInSriLanka has developed a web portal, www.workinsrilanka.lk that provides comprehensive information needed for relocation and links users with key industry bodies.
WorkInSriLanka is actively engaged in building partnerships with key industries in Sri Lanka, while concurrently building a worldwide network to create awareness of the site and its services amongst educated professionals, mainly Sri Lankans, abroad. Beyond the information portal, future plans include the following:
• Become a channel for executive level job placement - provide networking and connectivity to high level positions which are often not openly advertised;
• Showcase Sri Lanka as a preferred investment destination - optimizing the five hub strategy, especially the knowledge hub focusing on ITES industries; and
• Become an advocacy organization - work with the government and others to further improve Sri Lanka's attractiveness as the preferred relocation destination for experienced professionals.
Governor Cabraal, making the keynote address at the launch highlighted the paradigm shift in the mind-set of Sri Lankans as more are considering work in Sri Lanka rather than work outside Sri Lanka. He added that many are convinced that Sri Lanka has immense opportunities for both Sri Lankans abroad as well as foreigners with a wide range of skills, especially to fill the growing demand for highly skilled labor driven by the national five-hub strategy for economic development.
Furthermore, the Governor pointed out that while people may have left Sri Lanka for different reasons, the country must now welcome them back and create new spaces for them in the growing economy as Sri Lanka already has many highly qualified professionals who have remained in the country through difficult times. He also stressed on the significance of returning Sri Lankans integrating themselves into Sri Lankan society and their local communities in order to make brain gain meaningful. Cabraal also encouraged Sri Lankans seeking international exposure and returning to Sri Lanka as it broadened their knowledge and understanding, resulting in increased productivity and competitiveness.
The panel discussion which had very high participation from a cross section of the audience brought out several factors involving the attractiveness and ability to bring globally demanded skilled labor and Sri Lankan expatriates back to Sri Lanka. It was noted that as Sri Lanka is progressing into becoming a knowledge based economy there is a need for all sectors adapt to changing demands and provide technology based solutions and that there are many vacancies in such emerging areas that the industries are finding it difficult to fill with locally available skills at present.
Further, it was noted that there was greater potential in attracting expatriates back to Sri Lanka as they already have family ties and a sense of attachment to Sri Lanka. On the issue of whether encouraging highly skilled labor to return would undermine opportunities of Sri Lankans who are already in the country, it was noted by educationists who were present that the Sri Lankan students', especially graduates and professionals, aptitude was very high and that exposure to new skills and competition will enhance the value of the local graduates. Further, it was also discussed that Sri Lanka has room to improve its social infrastructure, such as public transport, lifestyle activities and organizational culture in some instances to make Sri Lanka more welcoming to highly skilled professionals. Several panelists highlighted the need for a concerted effort between organizations, private sector, national level policy-makers and the government to solve the macro impediments that may act as barriers to entry and create a strong foundation to encourage brain gain in Sri Lanka that will help economic growth as well increase the value of Sri Lankan human capital.
The WorkInSriLanka initiative is a volunteer-based initiative that has been planned and implemented by a team of twelve volunteers with varied skills, knowledge and backgrounds.