Training officials are insisting that technical and vocational training will play a major role in transforming the Barbados economy.
However, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour Alyson Forte has insisted that the training should be demand driven and training institutions will be required to make the necessary changes.
“When training is demand driven then those persons are better able to come back and put into practice what they have been taught,” Forte told the opening of the Skills for the Future Summit held at the Sandals Royal Barbados on Thursday.
“Undoubtedly, technical and vocational education will play a key role in the transformation of the Barbados economy. Consequently, there must be a transformation of the educational system to mainstream such education while strengthening the capabilities of agencies such as the Barbados Vocational Training Board, the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology and the TVET Council, both in terms of their curricula and their student output, maybe through expanded campus or campuses,” Forte explained.
He said with continued sluggish growth it is now time to focus on investment and economic activity that embrace the latest technology and “facilitate innovation” especially in the emerging sectors of renewable energy, the blue and green economy, the creative industries and digital sector.
Thursday’s summit was part of an ongoing process under the Skills for the Future programme to identify, among other things, recruitment and human resource management practices and skills needs for the emerging economies.
Stating that the summit was timely, Forte said it came at a time when the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme recognizes both economic recovery and transformation as essential elements to put Barbados back on a path of economic growth.
During a panel discussion titled Importance of a Skills-Based Educational System to Barbados’ Economic Development, Executive Director of the TVET Council Henderson Eastmond said he believed the Skills for the Future programme that was introduced in 2014, had started to change the mindset of Barbadians when it came to competency training.
“We are going to be, as a country, very strategic in our training. Our training must lead to an export-driven economy. It must lead to a reduction in imports,” said Eastmond.
Pointing to the need to reduce food imports, renewable energy and creative industry products, Eastmond said it was about time Barbados “get with it through training and standards”.
Officials also agreed that there was need for a development of “core skills” if residents were to contribute significantly to the island’s development and compete favourably with the rest of the world.
Country Coordinator of the A Ganar programme Ytanna Wiggins said the basic skills needed to operate as a citizen should take centrestage.
“You could enter the world with the greatest technical skills. You can have the greatest first-class degrees but if you do not have those core skills to operate in any industry, the skills of discipline, respect, communication and team work, you will not and cannot fit in any industry anywhere in Barbados, the region or the world,” said Wiggins to applause.
She said the workforce development A Ganar programme, which was introduced in 2013 in secondary schools and designed to help youth with basic reading and writing skills and practical experience, was providing those core skills.
“We have recognized that we have been talking. The Skills for the Future has showed us where we are going. We have started the work and we are in the secondary schools. The foundation is being laid by the [vocational] training board and Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology and we now need to decide how much further we are going. We need to stop talking and start working and we need to communicate more,” said Wiggins.
Meanwhile, Principal of the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology (SJPI) Ian Drakes said it was important that the learning institutions and companies form partnerships in order to provide the necessary training that the various industries and sectors required.
“We have to train our young persons for jobs that are not created as yet, digital global competitive citizens,” said Drakes.
“I would want us to understand that as training institutions it is more about being driven by the industry and not what you as a leader feel is the greatest thing on earth which may be a waste of time,” he added.