Creating a nation where education and training match the skills required ??? and jobs offered – in local businesses may be a challenging task, but it is one various Government departments are working towards with the five-pillar Human Resource Development Strategy (HRDS) 2011-2016.
Today, during the third day of a week-long series of workshops to turn the Strategy???s guidelines into action, the HRDS??? third pillar, Demand Driven Professional Development and Training, was brought to the table.
Representatives from the Ministries of Labour, Education, technical and vocational institutions and others gathered to consider what programmes will be created to shape a work environment where Barbadians would graduate with skills that are in demand.
???This pillar is going to be driven by business and industry working with education and training [agencies]. We have to go to them and find out their needs,??? workshop attendee and Director of the Barbados Vocational Training Board (BVTB), Henderson Thompson, stressed.
???Companies are very receptive to come and work with us, but we need to listen to what they???re saying. We can no longer train young people in the certification system that we have and when they go into industry and business, they can???t hit the ground running and then they have to turn around and retrain them.???
The BVTB Director explained that partnership between teaching institutions and the private sector was the only way to effectively match what students are taught and what is required in the workplace, as ???they???re the people with the technology and equipment… What is also needed is for our teachers to go into industry and see what technology they have ?????? he maintained.
Suggesting that seeing first-hand what industries needed would accurately inform teaching institutions on what training should be conducted, Mr. Thompson added: ???What industry requires, is people trained in specific areas: to straight stitch, sew on a collar, pocket or cuff. So we have to train to meet their [business] needs. We can???t sit in our offices and decide what industry should have, because we???re working to our detriment,??? he surmised.
Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Yolande Howard, observed that Mr. Thompson???s suggestions were all part of the purpose of the workshop exercise.
She explained that ???The workshops are here to get the planning process going ??? identifying problems and conceptualising projects out of those problems ??? and coming up with proposals that could be implemented???So we???ve had a lot of discussion generated, which we were looking for.???
However, she indicated that these talks must lead to action, as the European Union (EU) grant which supports the HRDS is dependent on the timely and accurate delivery of reports to show whether the goals laid out in the HRDS are being met.
In this regard, Programme Coordinator for the HRDS, Maureen Pollard, said that some progress has already been seen, with the University of the West Indies offering to collaborate by providing support in research and collection of data. This contribution will help guide proposals to be developed by including valuable data to justify projects created by each pillar???s working group.
???It???s a continuing exercise ??? this is only the framework,??? Ms. Pollard said of today???s activities. ???Out of this will come projects and proposals???In terms of how the EU grant funds are disbursed, there are targets for each pillar and our performance will be measured,??? she explained.
The Deputy Permanent Secretary added that: ???We are going to have a mid-term evaluation conducted of the entire Strategy very soon, within a matter of weeks. It gives us an opportunity to look at the Strategy, as it stands right now; to look at the performance results and impact indicators and determine whether or not all the activities indicators which were formulated back in 2010 are still relevant at this point???
???What we are encouraging stakeholders to do is go back to their regular sessions and working group meetings and advance the work started this week???and coming up with some meaningful projects and proposals,??? she stressed.
Some of the goals for this Demand Driven Professional Development and Training pillar are enhancing second chance education, to assist those who have not satisfactorily completed their secondary education and others who are changing careers or upgrading their knowledge; and strengthening career planning services to better structure job placement and internship opportunities for school leavers.
With these efforts set to benefit not only the receivers of training but the workforce and nation at large, Mrs. Howard emphasised that the strategy could not be seen as a Government programme or public sector programme, rather, it had to be seen as a national programme.
???We recognise that there are a lot of Government stakeholders, not enough private sector ones; [but] the working groups can now co-op other organisations and individuals who are experts in their fields to come on board with the working groups, and they???re being encouraged to do just that. These are the people who can better inform what is needed for economic development???We need to have a stronger private sector representation in the working groups,??? she reiterated.
The other pillars of the Barbados HRDS 2011-2016 are: Pillar 1 – Enabling Environment; Pillar 2 – National Qualifications Framework; Pillar 4 ??? Knowledge Management Systems; and Pillar 5 ??? Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Capacity.
Both the Barbados HRDS 2011-2016 and the HRDS Performance Assessment Framework, which lists the Strategy???s goals, may be accessed online at www.labour.gov.bb.