A review of a multi-million dollar initiative designed to help Barbadian students develop skills for the labour market has discovered that many secondary school students lack the ability to read and write or understand and work with numbers.
This is one of the areas of the US$20 million Skills for the Future programme that was found to be in need of improvement.
The programme backers also said there was need for more assessors.
The Skills for the Future programme is part of Government’s Human Resource Development Strategy and is financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) through a US$20 million loan agreement signed in November, 2012 to benefit the education sector.
The programme is designed to help Barbados improve secondary and post-secondary education so that graduates develop the skills needed to either pursue further education or enter the labour market.
The IDB’s Education Lead Specialist Sabine Rieble-Aubourg is here to assess the programme, which was due for completion this year but is likely to be extended by a further two years.
After meeting with administrators of the Competency Based Training Fund (CBTF) and the A Ganar initiative, two components of Skills For the Future, Rieble-Aubourg said she was generally pleased with their performance.
A Ganar, which uses team sports to develop core and life skills for at-risk youth, promotes youth engagement in society and helps to combat youth unemployment, was launched here in 2014.
Eight schools are currently participating in the programme, with another three secondary schools scheduled to join in soon.
Rieble-Aubourg said it was “performing well and to target”, however, there were concerns about the component of the programme that relates to the relevance and quality of secondary education.
“We have started discussion with the Ministry of Education to focus more on Component Two, which is to improve the relevance and quality of secondary education, because through the visits and the reports we get from both the A Ganar component and partnerships, literacy and numeracy remains an area of concern; and that needs strengthening,” she told journalists.
“So we will work with the Ministry of Education to look more closely at what is required, starting at early childhood and primary education, to strengthen these areas to make sure that graduates coming out of secondary schools are well prepared and better prepared to enter the world of work and participate then in training initiatives if provided by the CBTF,” she added.
The programme has four main pillars – creation of a more demand-driven or employer-aligned training system; improvement of the relevance and quality of secondary education; institutional strengthening of the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Education and other partners; and social marketing.
Consultant manager of the CBTF Anderson Lowe said it had exceeded all expectations, having received more than 100 applications in its three funding cycles.
He reported that over 2,000 people signed up and received training to improve their skills and become certified.
He said 109 applicants were trained in the amenity horticulture level I Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) training, and given the success it was agreed that a level II would be offered.
In addition, Lowe reported that about 20 occupational standards were developed and/or validated in the various curricula.
“The fund has also committed some $14 million to train some 4,000 persons . . . . And we have also trained a number of trainers, assessors, [and] internal and external verifiers to facilitate the assessment and certification processes,” said Lowe. (MM)