Barbados will soon be undertaking tracer studies of its education system to assess the progress of its graduates at the secondary and post-secondary levels.
This process will see the gathering and dissemination of data on the perceptions of employers regarding the skills and competencies of graduates and provide labour market data on their availability and level of employability.
Government???s efforts have already begun with a search for an individual to design procedures for the studies and a firm to implement the tracer studies.
This is all part of the GOB/IDB Skills for the Future Program that seeks to improve the quality and relevance of Secondary Education and the effectiveness of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET).
Tracer studies will, in the long run, assist TVET institutions, such as the Barbados Vocational Training Board, the Barbados Community College and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic develop improvement plans.
These institutions will first have to undergo a self-assessment test and analyse the information against employers??? demand for specific skills, taking into account employers??? assessment of the relevance and quality of TVET institutions and secondary schools??? training programs. The necessary support to carry out these self-evaluations will be given by the Programme Coordinating Unit and the Higher Education Development Unit of the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation.
Based on the results of the several studies, training institutions will be encouraged to develop business plans containing the steps necessary to improve and/or rationalise their programme offerings vis-a-vis the needs of firms and the labour market. Theirs will also be a quest to achieve accreditation of their institutions and programmes from the Barbados Accreditation Council.
The development of the tracer studies will be done in two phases. Firstly, an individual consultancy will develop the instrument (questionnaire) and propose the survey methodology and sample-panel design. The questionnaire will be adapted for secondary school graduates and for post-secondary TVET graduates and both versions will be validated with key stakeholders in Barbados.
Following this, a second consultancy, to be undertaken by a firm or University, will apply the questionnaire to a sample of graduates from secondary schools and post-secondary TVET institutions. Although separate instruments will be administered at these levels, the emphasis will nonetheless be on ensuring a coherent and systematic approach and comparability across education and training institutions.
A panel of graduates will be set up that may be traced and surveyed over a period of one year, following their graduation. This will allow for the gathering of data on their employment status, wages and job professional development and will eventually lead to assessing the relevance of their training and labour market performance, particularly in terms of employability, type and area of employment as well as entry level and current wages.
The tracer studies pilot should last for a period of two years and prove beneficial to the country as a whole.