The student complement of the Barbados Vocational Training Board (BVTB) has been reduced by 50 per cent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking during the Board’s Virtual Graduation class 2019-2020, themed Change Call for Innovation, the Way Forward, Director of the BVTB Henderson Thompson said while the first semester commenced with 527 students enrolled in 24 different skills training programmes in August 2019, scores of students withdrew from the programme in the following months due to the pandemic.
Thompson said: “As the semester commenced, it was clear that COVID-19 took a toll on our enrollment numbers. We recorded a number of withdrawals from the various programmes after the lockdown. Today we have 218 graduands across the trades for the skills training programme”.
Thompson explained that in March 2020 when the coronavirus hit the island, the Board was forced to find innovative ways to deliver skills training in the face of the global pandemic.
Thompson said it was clear that the institution needed to embrace technology and improve its access through digital challenges to educate and service students.
Thompson said throughout the period of lockdown, the Board was able to deliver its theoretical aspects of some of its programmes online while awaiting word from Government on official protocols to resume face-to-face teaching.
The Director said face-to-face classes resumed at the BVTB in June 2020 with careful assessment and permission from the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit.
He explained that the semester was extended to ensure students completed their programmes and gained certification with classes being divided into two sections to meet social distancing requirements.
However, Thompson indicated that despite the difficulties faced, he is grateful to celebrate the opportunities and achievements of the institution, including staff educational accomplishments.
Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education Senator Dr Rommel Springer, who delivered the featured address at the ceremony, said as the Ministry seeks to reform education to build a resilient nation, an improved technical and vocational training process will be a major driver in the education reform process.
Dr Springer told the graduates that they were required to gain their certification under circumstances that no other generation in modern times have been asked to, and assured them that the graduation is a sign that they are now an improved version of themselves.
“Today we celebrate your success and applaud you for staying the course. The education and training you received during your course of study at the BVTB will remain relevant, but you will have to build on that education and training, if you desire to remain confident, competent and readily adaptable in a rapidly changing world.
“You now have the competences to operate effectively at the entry level in your chosen vocations. The Government and people of Barbados are anxious to see you reach your full potential,” Dr Springer said. (AH)