Andrew Downes, professor of economics at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, has issued a call for a more holistic approach when it comes to skills development in the education system here, saying it was currently too narrow in focus.
Making a presentation during the Skills For The Future conference at the Hilton Barbados today, Downes told the gathering that the education system continued to focus too much on academics while the necessary soft skills and computer skills were
The two-day conference, attended by education officials, private sector and public sector representatives, is being held under the theme Build, Innovate, Transform.
“What we want to do at the end of the day is have a more comprehensive look at skills development in general. We tend to be too narrow in our technical and vocational education and training,” said Downes, who spoke on the topic Skills Development in Barbados: Planning For A New Economy.
“We have a large provision of education and training [facilities], tax incentives are there, we have grants and training schemes and again the emphasis seemed to be based on this competency based training. But probably what we need to do is go beyond competencies to a point of capabilities that gives person that ability to go beyond that narrow confine of where they are,” he said.
He said there was a need for more computer and social skills training “so that we don’t focus too much on just being able to do something on the job but we are able to function broadly in society and broadly in the workplace. I think sometimes we miss that particular element”.
He said in relation to skills development there has been a general decline in Barbados since the 1960’s and swift action was needed to change that.
A lack of data regarding job market needs and changes also created a challenge, he pointed out that.
Downes said the biggest challenge, however, was implementation, adding that there were already two programmes – the National Training Plan and the Human Growth and Development Strategy 2011-2016 – that were designed to provide a framework to address the issue of meeting the demands of the workforce.
“What we need now is a national strategy map,” said Downes.
This, he said, would link different elements of the plan and strategy “in a systematic way” to address the issues.
He said there was also need for an information system “to get a sense of what the changes in the job market are, and the focus and dimension of training” that were needed.
During the conference presenters from Germany, Canada and Trinidad shared best practices on how they addressed the issue of supplying adequate skills to fill positions in the workforce in those countries.