Employers across Barbados are generally dissatisfied with the level of readiness for the workforce among young people leaving secondary and tertiary learning institutions here.
This is according to Chief Executive Officer of Pinelands Creative Workshop Sophia Greaves-Broome, who pointed out that research carried out in 2007 and again in 2011, showed that there were several barriers that prevented more graduates finding a job.
Those research findings identified males and females between the ages of 15 and 24 as being most at risk, with most of the barriers to them finding gainful employment being poor basic education, poor work ethics, lack of marketable skills, and lack of work experience.
Greaves-Broome pointed out that between 2017 and 2018 the Ministry of Labour carried out a similar survey funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) through the Skills for the Future programme.
“The research findings revealed that employers in all sectors were generally still unsatisfied with the skills displayed by school leavers whether secondary or tertiary,” said Greaves-Broome.
“Concerns were with the inadequate level of adaptability, the ability to collaborate, poor communication and conflict resolution, poor customer service, decision-making and time management skills and work ethics. Overall the soft skills of secondary school leavers were of high concern. It was also suggested that this type of personal and professional development gap can be of a significant barrier to employment,” she explained.
Greaves-Broome was addressing the Pinelands Creative Workshop’s 19th annual Career and Life Management (CALM) programme at the office of the IDB on Monday.
The ten-day event, which will see sessions continuing at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus in The Pine, St Michael in coming days, is being held under the theme Employ-Ability, and will engage students from secondary schools in high-level discussions on varying angles related to the labour market and the preparation for the world of work.
Greaves-Broome called for attention to be redirected to developing skills in the areas of problem solving, critical thinking, team work, communication and conflict resolution, adding that it was the collective duty of civil society, and the private and public sectors to ensure quality education was provided to young people.
“The world will continue to shift, but in the interest of our children, are we keeping up, are we aligning our education with the demands and creative industries, blue and green economies and other new and emerging areas that could be avenues for economic sustainability at the individual and national levels?” she asked. She welcomed Government’s decision to move away from the 11-plus examination system, adding that she hoped the new system would look to an education from a sustainable development angle and an international perspective”.
Minister in the Ministry of Investment Marsha Caddle insisted that for individuals and the country to experience sustainable growth and development, there would be need for more engagement with young people in “the things that matter to them”.
As such, she said the Mia Mottley-led administration was focused on seven main pillars to achieve a growth strategy, which included investing in areas that would benefit the youth.
These, she said included “reinvesting in education and skills, reinvesting in public health, investing in climate resilient infrastructure, resetting fiscal policy, reinventing Government, reforming our financial system . . . and reengaging with CARICOM (Caribbean Community)”.
Caddle said for the next 50 years Barbados should have an education system that “has a certain level of flexibility”, while welcoming the planned move away from the 11-plus examination.
“Education is not just about employability. It is education for life. It is about being able to live meaningful lives and create agencies so that you understand why you are making decisions and how those decisions are important to you and the people around you. It is really about being able to live a life that we all value,” she said.
Project Manager at the Maria Holder Memorial Trust Ruchelle Roach said there was need for more education and awareness among parents about the new and emerging sectors, as she called on individuals here to move away “from the doctor, lawyer, bank manager mode of thinking”.
“We are seeing a trend where more and more young people are moving into the non-traditional areas of employment and we have to prepare the youth for the changing dynamics,” she said.
Meanwhile, IDB representative Juan Carlos De La Hoz Vinas urged students to be bold and ask all the questions they could about career options they were interested in as they prepare to enter the world of work.