Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Education Technical and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw. (PMO/FP)

Local and international organisers of the inaugural WorldSkills Barbados Juniors Future Skills Camp were today saluted for their joint efforts at advancing the technological skills of Barbadian youth, despite the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Council and WorldSkills Russia were both recognised by Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Education Technical and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw, when she addressed a virtual press conference that offered snapshots into the online camp held earlier this month.

Minister Bradshaw, noting that it was the first of its kind in Barbados and the entire [Caribbean] region, said: “It is visionary that WorldSkills, an international hub of excellence for skills development has taken the step to provide training opportunities for our younger demographic, to improve the quality of the global technical and vocational education and training system. We remain appreciative of the willingness of the WorldSkills International community to share resources and expertise that can aid in personal development, national and global economic growth and prosperity.”

Explaining that collaborations such as the one between WorldSkills Barbados and WorldSkills Russia were pivotal in the efforts to empower the country’s youth, she said: “In addition to hosting the Biennial Skills Competition for TVET students, they have created an experience for our young people that encourages excellence in skills development; boosts their self-confidence and inspires them to choose enterprising careers. These objectives were realised through the 2021 WorldSkills Barbados Juniors Future Skills Camp.”

The camp, which ran from September 6 to 10, provided students, aged 14 to 18, with five skill areas, namely Aerial Robotics/Drone Operating; Mobile Applications Development; 3-D Digital Game Art; The Internet of Things and Building Information Modelling/Digital Construction.

Referring to these “as future skills of great value for our modern evolving societies” the Acting Prime Minister praised the work done by the students. With respect to Building Information Modelling, she remarked: “I certainly would want to see the future houses that are going to be built by many of these young people…. I think the prospect of being able to learn first-hand how to actually use those types of programmes to be able to build things in the architectural world is certainly an advancement in what we do presently.”

Of the advanced skilled area, The Internet of Things, Minister Bradshaw noted that research had shown that as the world becomes more interconnected, businesses were attempting to stay ahead of the curve by investing heavily in this initiative.  

“No industry will be left untouched by The Internet of Things, and participants in this skill were able to use coding to programme traffic lights, which contribute to the concept of, for instance, a smart city,” she stated.

The students’ foray into Mobile Applications Development, and with the use of Android Studio software, led them to develop an educational game in Mathematics for young children.  

Giving her perspective on this, Ms. Bradshaw noted that students with this skill could even develop entertainment applications for seniors, who should not be left behind, as Barbados had a growing ageing population.

“Even as many businesses seek to improve their customer relationship through building websites and developing mobile applications, the possibilities of these future skills are indeed endless,” she added.

She further noted that the 3-D Digital Game Art could improve the creative industries, enabling us to tell our own stories of Barbadian culture, while Aerial Robotics, which was not solely about the use of a remote to fly and control drones, had the potential to be programmed for search and rescue operations, and for farm security, to prevent praedial larceny.

Emphasising that the COVID-19 pandemic had taught us that we needed to be prepared for what the future holds, Ms. Bradshaw said we must be able to adapt and to innovate. She added that it had also brought home the importance of skills development and the integration of new skills.

The Education Minister, pleased that the camp would be available to students 11 to 13 years, next year, and the TVET Council would be seeking to develop qualifications in the five skills, congratulated both participants and organisers for a “job well done”.

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