The partnership between Coursera, one of the largest US-based open online course providers, and Government’s National Transformation Initiative (NTI) has officially entered its second year of cooperation.
Courses have been designed from the ground up to train Barbadians in the skills needed to function in a growing digital world.
Director of Coursera’s International Public Sector Practice Matt Klein praised the Government for pushing citizens to become more digitally aware in their respective jobs, adding that the importance of digital education in the current workforce cannot be overstated.
“Digital education is a transformative opportunity for empowerment, and while talent is distributed equally around the world, opportunity is not,” he said, adding that over the past week, company officials have met with the Ministries of Education, Labour, Youth and Sports, Information and Smart Technology, Tourism, Agriculture, Foreign Trade and Business Development, People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Environment and Beautification, Foreign Affairs, the public service, the Barbados Community College and the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“Again and again, we have heard the same refrain – excitement about the impact of the NTI programme, because these are exactly the skills needed in every company, agency and citizen,” Klein said.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley congratulated the NTI team for their efforts over the past year in assisting Barbadians to develop new skill sets.
However, she said she wanted more emphasis placed on the citizenship module being offered by NTI, in particularly for students at tertiary level.
“I am asking the NTI to enter into discussions with all of our tertiary institutions, public and private, to ensure that the citizenship module becomes a base course irrespective of whatever else a student is doing, and I am not going to tell you that the Prime Minister is mandating it but I am going to tell you that the Minister of Finance is not going to pay for anybody’s fees if you don’t do the citizenship module,” Mottley said.
The Prime Minister added that although a large number of Barbadians took advantage of the courses previously offered by NTI, she was hoping for an even greater increase in registrations with an expanded number of modules being offered in Phase 2, including Tourism Academy, Creative Academy, and Programming.
“We have, in the course of the last year, had 15, 754 registered students to deal with Online Safety; 8 138 students, Core Skills; 5 385, Entrepreneurship; 5, 956, Occupational Health and Safety; 6 263, Citizenship; 14 577, Introduction to Coding with Java, 4, 950, Beginner Sign Language, 5, 220, and Personal Financial Management, 382.
“This is without even ramping up seriously because we were in the middle of Alpha, Delta and Omicron [COVID-19 variants]. Remove those from the equation, and begin to understand the implications that these eight courses have …. Young and old, middle age and middle young, whatever you want to call yourself, we are in the business of giving Bajans the opportunity to be the best that they can, that they can be, in the language of NTI, star Bajans, so that you can command jobs not just locally, not just regionally, but internationally.”
Phase 2 of NTI-Coursera training opportunities targets a broader segment of the Barbadian workforce.
The NTI was established to address one of the pillars of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme. It is part of the Government’s Retraining and Retooling (ReRe) programme, which prioritises investing in and deepening existing investments in skills training and education. (SB)