|Some of the graduates at the ceremony at the Wildey Gymnasium. (C. Pitt/BGIS)??|
Unemployment and occupational shortages in Barbados could be conquered if educational institutions provided more demand-driven courses that are built on relevant market information and strategic partnerships with the private sector.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, made this assertion at the 2012 graduation ceremony of the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP) last Saturday.
Congratulating the graduates on their achievement, Dr. Byer Suckoo said: "There are occupational shortages in several sectors, yet, there exists a pool of persons who have difficulty finding employment.?? So, there are some areas where we need workers, and then there are workers who can’t find jobs and the two are not fitting together."
Noting that the high level of youth unemployment has created a sense of urgency for a change in workforce development, she said those factors demonstrated that there was a need for transformation in the training system at SJPP.
While the Labour Minister lauded the institution for its "invaluable contribution and significant achievements in the delivery of technical and vocational training", she stressed that there was room for improvement.
"…Training at SJPP, indeed at all our training institutions, must become more demand-driven.?? There must be a shift of focus, from just ensuring access to institution, and graduation with certificates, to one where emphasis is placed on monitoring and evaluating the training delivered in order to ensure that it is effective in meeting the needs out there in the various sectors in the economy," she explained.
Dr. Byer Suckoo continued: "We must understand that ultimately, training that students receive at SJPP will account for very little if the skills and competencies acquired are of no tangible benefit to employers… We need to constantly question whether the graduates of SJPP are finding employment in their areas of training; whether they are satisfying their employers’ needs; and whether they are skilled enough to build successful businesses."
According to her, the demand-driven approach would require a paradigm shift within the private sector and that educational institutions possess a certain level of flexibility in training.????
"…The private sector would need to more effectively assess, project and communicate its future training needs and priorities to government… so that this information could be used to amend and develop training curricula," she pointed out.??
The Labour Minister maintained that flexibility was also crucial, especially in the mode of training.?? Describing face-to-face instruction as an approach with limited capacity and adaptability to new technologies, she said: "A demand-driven training system will require a certain level of flexibility in the ability of institutions to develop curricula, programme material and training tools to more efficiently respond to the dynamic requirements of the labour market."????
Praising the SJPP for its hands-on instruction and the online learning facility, Dr. Byer Suckoo said that international institutions offered open and distance learning, innovative mechanisms such as simulation programmes, prior learning, virtual instruction and online assessments.
She acknowledged that while some of those mechanisms depended heavily on the student’s discipline, self-motivation and access to technology, the Labour Minister said that Barbados must actively explore variations of instruction which provided the best of both worlds.??