The Skills for the Future programme not only seeks to match skills available in the workforce to those sought by employers but also aims to foster a national culture of highly skilled, critical thinkers that constitute a highly productive labour force.

This was a key message contained in the conference booklet and shared at the start of the Skills for the Future Barbados Conference 2014: Build, Innovate, Transform; taking place at Hilton Barbados Resort, Needham???s Point, St. Michael.

Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones, in speaking to the issue said it entailed developing mutually beneficial partnerships between employers and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions so that students could cultivate their skills-sets.

???This can be achieved through mentorship and practical experience, providing employers with a pool of potential recruits while giving potential entrepreneurs the ability to develop their own businesses. At the same time, greater emphasis on science, technology and innovation, mathematics and the arts will provide more solid foundations for the development of Barbados,??? he noted.

A former educator, himself, Mr. Jones stressed: ???We have to work as an educational sector to ensure that our graduates in various disciplines are able to find employment that matches their training and qualifications. This will serve to meet the development need of Barbados.???

Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, Senator Esther Byer Suckoo, in her message said the introduction of the programme would help bring about the transformation of Barbados??? education and training landscape.

She explained: ???The programme includes support for an employer-driven training system, improved quality and relevance of secondary and post-secondary education, institutional strengthening and, an improved awareness and understanding of the importance and benefits of a competence-based technical and vocational education and training system ??? with a focus on training, assessing and certifying to approved occupational standards.

???These components, once successfully implemented, will in turn help to create a competent and certified workforce that is a key driver of a competitive Barbados economy.???

Meanwhile, President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Warren Smith, noted that TVET and skills development remain at the core of CDB???s strategic objective of supporting inclusive growth and sustainable development.

According to him, since 2000, over US$37 million has been approved to expand the cadre of skilled and employable persons in a number of Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs) including Haiti, Guyana, Belize, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica, ???recognising that the skills gap is best addressed by expanding access to the relevant and quality TVET???.

???This is especially critical to the certification of young adults and youth at risk so that they can become productive individuals and experience a sustainable livelihood,??? he pointed out, while stating that CDB???s investment had targeted all aspects of the delivery system including establishing the institutional framework for governance, coordination and policy development for TVET, upgrading facilities, improving the capacity for the effective delivery of competency-based instruction and addressing the stigma and poor image of TVET.

Dr. Smith added: ???Of particular interest for CDB is the need to enhance the alignment of TVET systems to labour market needs and establish a truly demand-driven training system throughout our BMCs. Consequently, our support for TVET development will remain as an area of focus for the Bank, complementing the strategic priority articulated by the Governments in the region.???

The CDB President concluded that the deliberations during the conference ???must translate into concrete transformations within each TVET system, if the outcome of an expanded and employable workforce was to be realised in each country???.

On November 2, 2012, the Government of Barbados signed a loan agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to provide US $20 Million for the Skills for the Future Programme. This project follows the successful completion of the US$60 Million Education Sector Enhancement Programme, the goal of which was to increase the number of students contributing to sustainable social and economic development in Barbados.

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