Parliamentary Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner (FP)????

With a mere 50 per cent of the adult population having some formal educational qualification, more must be done to certify workers’ competence.

This is according to Parliamentary Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner. She made the observation recently, while addressing the open day and exhibition of the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP).

The Parliamentary Secretary noted that despite the many achievements of the Polytechnic during the past 40 years, there were a number of challenges facing the institution. For example, she said that the latest figures provided had shown that only 587 students had graduated from full-time courses.??

Mrs. Sandiford-Garner also expressed concern about the growing demand for skilled personnel. "Manpower studies have shown that there is currently a huge skill deficit in Barbados. With increasing trade liberalisation, there is likely to be increased migration to Barbados to satisfy this demand. Competition from within CARICOM and from outside the region is likely to intensify.

"As I have argued in recent months, this will create many social problems based on the incapacity of our social services to deal with an influx of migrant workers and their dependents. We simply have to train more Barbadians, by whatever means," she stressed.

Another challenge mentioned by the Senator, was the continuing low status of technical and vocational skills. "I have always argued that the skills of an electrician are as important as those of a doctor. Both can cause death by careless workmanship. ??

"Now, even though a good electrician or plumber can earn more than a doctor or lawyer, there is still a persistent snobbishness in favour of the traditional high status professions. We need to find a solution to this challenge," she stated.

The absence or low profile of entrepreneurial skills training in the curriculum was also mentioned by Mrs. Sandiford-Garner. She acknowledged that Barbadians had been socialised to seek continuous education and training in order to get a job. However, she warned that given the current recession, there may be a point at which the only guaranteed employment would be self-employment.

"I believe that entrepreneurial training should be attached to every skills training course at the Polytechnic, and that a considerable amount of time should be devoted to relevant topics, such as marketing and customer care," she opined. ??????????????????

The Parliamentary Secretary revealed she was also worried about the lack or low visibility of life-skills training. She pointed out that the SJPP had been organising such courses which helped young people with anger management and conflict resolution. However, she lamented the increasing number of complaints about the anti-social behaviour of young people, which, she stressed, could not be ignored.

"This implies that too many young people are growing up without adequate exposure to the core values of our society that revolve around respect for self, for others and for property. There comes a time when we must stop passing the buck and start dealing with the matter in hand," Mrs. Sandiford-Garner remarked.

The Senator outlined a vision of the tertiary education facility "as part of an even larger, amalgamated institution, where adequate provision is made for that large number of our children who have an aptitude for technical and vocational work".

She added: "I have a vision of most Barbadians benefitting from courses of different lengths and depths, designed to help them appreciate and understand their built environment, their natural environment, their human ecology and the many machines and technological gadgets on which we depend so heavily.

"Ultimately these developments will enhance the status of technical and vocational skills."

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