Minister of Agriculture, Food and Nutritional Security, Indar Weir (centre), and Permanent Secretary, Terry Bascombe (right) listen attentively to Coursera officials Matt Klein and Nicole Amaral (both left) during their recent meeting while Director of the National Transformation Initiative, Dr. Allyson Leacock, looks on. (S. Forde-Craigg/BGIS)

With Phase Two of the National Transformation Initiative’s (NTI) partnership with Coursera about to begin, the Ministry of Agriculture is seeking to engage in some of the world-class training and development the open online learning platform has to offer.

Minister of Agriculture, Food and Nutritional Security, Indar Weir, along with Permanent Secretary, Terry Bascombe, met with officials from Coursera and the NTI at the Ministry, Graeme Hall, Christ Church, today, to discuss how to access curated programmes and the way forward in upskilling not only staff, but also its stakeholders.

Minister Weir emphasised that staff must be able to execute their duties to help achieve the mandate, mission and vision of the Ministry, including the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal #2 – Zero Hunger, and courses in leadership, communication, management and success skills, among others, which would help in their development and accomplishment of their duties.

“It is always my view that the best way you can help your workforce is to facilitate them with the necessary skills, by creating the opportunities for them to participate, and therefore, any opportunity to provide for Barbadians and give them a wide variety of options is welcomed,” Mr. Weir underscored.

The Minister explained that food security is a complex subject matter and it was critical that staff be educated and understand the gist of what food and nutritional security means, so they can inform stakeholders, such as farmers, persons selling food, vendors at schools and the persons who shop for groceries, and in so doing, help the public move towards the goal of a healthier society, where the number of persons living with non-communicable diseases is reduced.

Director, International Government for Coursera, Matt Klein, informed the Minister that Coursera has a wealth of content that comes from international credible organisations that could be used to both upskill government officials, as well as citizens. 

Mr. Klein highlighted one of Coursera’s ‘tracks’ that is readily available.  “We have a full Leadership Academy that trains people in things like emotional intelligence and managing teams; things like critical thinking and problem solving, that every agency and every country in the world needs, that the private sector needs.”

Coursera Lead, Skills Transformation, LAC, Nicole Amaral, shared some of the courses that might interest the Ministry, including agribusiness; understanding major trend topics like blue and green economy; sustainable supply chain management; best practice farming for sustainable 2050; plant biology and medicinal cannabis. 

She noted that Coursera can work with the NTI to create “contextually specific technical courses” for the Ministry.

Also present at the courtesy call were: Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Gem Vaughan; Director of the NTI, Dr. Allyson Leacock; Assistant Director of NTI with responsibility for Coursera Communications and Client Success, Marcelle Greenidge; NTI Assistant Director, BEST Implementation and Strategic Partnerships, Raphael Saul, and Coursera’s Enterprise Client Success Manager, Patrick Whitaker. 

Coursera offers self-paced guided projects and on-demand courses on a variety of subjects.  The platform partners with universities and companies, including Yale University in the USA, Amazon Web Services, Google and IBM, to provide over 1,600 courses, where customers can earn digital certificates to share on their resumes or with their LinkedIn networks.

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