Executive Director of the Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) Council Henderson Eastmond wants greater attention placed on students who are interested in developing technical skills instead of academics.
Speaking at the official launch of the Barbados Manufacturers’ Exhibition (BMEX) at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre at the weekend, Eastmond said that too many students were being left behind by the education system because they were not academically inclined.
He said that technical education “remains the weakest link” in the country’s education system and called for clarity on the role of technical and vocational training in education.
“There must be a clear vision that articulates the role of TVET in our national educational system. Sufficient attention needs to be paid to the less academically inclined in our schools system. This population is too large to be left untapped,” he said.
The TVET boss appealed for linkages between technical and vocational training and industry, arguing that education must be demand driven.
“We must increase our commitment to internet-based learning to develop the skills of graduates to keep up with the changes, and we need to change to recruitment targets for TVET instructors. We must recruit from industries that the graduates will join. Teachers who do not understand industry, business and the workplace are not useful,” Eastmond said.
To emphasize his point, the educator made reference to contracts awarded for the exploration of oil and gas off the shores of Barbados.
The latest contract was given to the Spanish company Repsol SA as part of this island’s offshore petroleum programme, which began several years ago and includes another major international mining, metals and petroleum company, BHP Billiton Limited.
Eastmond questioned whether local talent would be involved in the exploration since there was no local training in this industry.
He also used the occasion to highlight the lack of courses related to drilling at the local level.
“Some may argue that it is difficult to have demand when you do not have much industries. I believe that in some cases you have to create that demand by working with partners. Maybe we have to look at industry partners overseas that are interested in training and knowledge transfer and the working and creating of local partners such as Invest Barbados and BIDC [Barbados Investment Development Corporation] working with the TVET Council and the training institutions so that when they try to attract investment in the island, that the human resource and workforce gaps will be dealt with,” Eastmond stressed.
“In other words, we have to stop working in silos. Take for example, we heard that we are going to be drilling for oil very soon but we in the training institutions and the TVET Council we are wondering ‘wait, who [is] going to be working on these platforms?’ Because there is no oil and drilling training taking place,” he said.
Eastmond also pointed out that it was important to give a higher profile to technical skills in order for Barbados to take advantage of more high skilled jobs around the globe.
This, he said, must be done with a sense of urgency if the Barbados were to expand, diversify and restructure its economy.