Some of the offcials attending the opening of the Skills For The Future Programnme at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. (A. Miller/BGIS)

With the official launch of the Skills for the Future programme yesterday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre a call has gone out to all in the private sector to put their hands to the plough.

Third Vice President of Barbados Manufacturers Association (BMA), Ziad Kazan, made this appeal as he addressed the event noting that the BMA was attracted to the initiative because of its emphasis on life-skills.

He said: "We need to teach our young people how to strive and also how to survive. Far too frequently, they go through the education system very well versed,?????????????? [and] very well educated but in many respects they are not fully prepared to face the harsh and sometimes brutal world of work. For their sake and their employers’, we need to properly prepare them for the world of work and life in general."

And, he stressed that one life-skill which his organisation encouraged students to acquire was that of "courage" – to make their own good choices and to follow their passions. "Too often, students are conditioned to follow what we like to consider the traditional career paths – medicine, law, accounting, clerical and administration…While there is nothing wrong with that, we are aware that not every child may fit in that classical mode," the BMA official said.??

Pointing out that programmes like the Skills for the Future had a "serious responsibility" to remind and sensitise young people about the viable alternatives, he surmised: "Perhaps their passion is for agriculture, mechanical engineering, design, machine design, [or] food technology. The important message that we must transmit is that they do not need to be ???a square peg in a round hole’. They do not have to follow a route that others would take or are taking. They can discover their own path with confidence that they will succeed if they are different."

Referring to misconceptions about career paths in manufacturing, Mr. Kazan said: "Many still believe that you can only find work, not a career in the manufacturing sector and the only work one can find in this sector is to be a machine operator." And, he debunked this notion saying that while many machine operators had chosen this as a career and were sometimes the ???backbones’ in the organisation, the developments in technology now called for them to be highly skilled and technically-trained in order to operate and/or maintain the equipment.

"The reality is that there is a wealth of possibilities and opportunity for success in the manufacturing sector," he noted, explaining that manufacturing comprised a number of subsectors, with plenty of room in the sector and a "great need for our island’s best and brightest minds" to work in the area of manufacturing.

The Skills For the Future programme of the Government of Barbados and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) was, therefore, urged to "reach the parents" with the knowledge of alternative career paths. Mr. Kazan added: "We, as parents sometimes wish for our children to be doctors and lawyers, but if our children are technically inclined we need to encourage them to be part of a thriving sector that can be one of the leading sectors in our island – which is the manufacturing sector.

"The key for us in addition to the academics, in the development of life skills – is proper preparation for the workplace – etiquette, protocols, a proper understanding of a good work ethic and the need and commitment to excellence. Anything that is worth putting our hands in must be excellent."

Commending the endless possibilities and promise which the initiative held, the BMA’s Third Vice President added that his organisation strongly believed that education must include all of these concepts. "We all know that nothing beats hands-on experience and so we must be willing to open our doors to work with all educational institutions to facilitate internship, apprenticeship and other work-related programmes which will truly help to round and prepare our students for the world of work," he observed.

The BMA, like other organisations, is expected to benefit significantly from the Competency-based Training Fund, a key component of the Skills for the Future programme, which aims to promote partnership/alliances between the corporate sector and training institutions on the island.

In her remarks, Education Lead Specialist with the IDB, Dr.?? Sabine Aubourg-Rieble, confirmed the significance of this Fund to the businesses. She remarked: "It cannot be overstated that the involvement of the private sector in education is key to the success of this programme. Seeds have been sown during the preparation phase to have a strong and sustainable relationship between the education sector and the business community that will help to better train Barbadian youths for the jobs of the 21st century and better align training with the needs of the labour relationships."


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