Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Senator Harcourt Husbands, speaking at the launch of the Skills For The Future Programme at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. (A. Miller/BGIS)

"A nation which fails to invest in education is certainly a nation without a future."

Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Senator Harcourt Husbands, underscored this recently as he addressed the official launch of the Skills for the Future Programme at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC).

Noting that Government placed "great store on education", he said: "The commitment to education for all is not of recent vintage in Barbados. Various initiatives, in particular free education, have helped to shape the national development of this country in the post-colonial period."

The Skills For the Future programme is being executed by the Government of Barbados (GOB) with funding to the tune of US $20 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and counterpart funding from the island. It comprises four components namely: support for an employer-driven training system; improvement of quality and relevance of secondary and post secondary education; institutional strengthening and capacity building and a comprehensive communications campaign.

While commending the IDB for its role, the Parliamentary Secretary stressed that it demonstrated support and confidence to invest in the future and national development of Barbados. And, he told the Bank’s representatives: "Government intends to continue to demonstrate that it can be a potent force of transformation for countless Barbadians and a major factor in ensuring continued success even in these challenging times."??

Stating that "pride of place" had always been accorded to academic success as well as other interests and different talents of students, Senator Husbands told those gathered at the LESC: "We recognise that as changes have taken place in the labour market, we, too, need to re-orient our vision and make adjustments to our programmes of study in order to ensure that we are training young people with skills which are relevant to a changing labour market."

Acknowledging that life-skills development had been given priority status, the government official noted this was being supported with substantial funding provided under the Barbados Human Resource Development Strategy 2011-2016, the Education Sector Enhancement Programme II and the Skills For the Future initiative.

Drawing a similarity between the GOB/IDB initiative and the Strengthening Second Chance Education programme, recently launched by the Caribbean Examinations Council and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – the former educator said they both stood to significantly benefit the education sector and youth on the island.

And, he added that the education and training sectors as well as the country’s economic structure had to be revisited to "give greater visibility to the importance of skills in the political, economic and community agendas of the country and ensure an increasing emphasis on skills for global competitiveness, poverty reduction and tackling unemployment".

Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, Andrew Cox, in endorsing the Skills For the Future programme, told the IDB representatives: "We, as a country, will be better positioned to strengthen the linkages between the educational system and employers to facilitate effective workforce development. We will also enhance the ability of workplaces in Barbados to provide certified training opportunities for their employees and obtain better information on skills gaps in industry.

"In addition, this project will improve our ability to develop life and work skills for at risk youth. At the organisational level; it will strengthen the institutional capacity of relevant ministries involved, while allowing Government to develop and improve its current information systems."


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