While technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is important to Barbados, there is still a need to develop the minds of our young people as they acquire skills.

This view was expressed yesterday, by Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones, at the official opening ceremony of The Skills for The Future Barbados Conference 2014 at the Hilton Barbados Resort, Needham???s Point, St. Michael.

The Minister stated that it was important to address issues of poverty, and of persons feeling disconnected, not only in respect of what the job market asked for, but how individuals related to one another.

???We have to make it possible for our young people, both boys and girls, to acquire knowledge to be able to communicate effectively and to have divergent views,??? he said, while pointing out that the transformation of our classrooms called for everybody being ???on board to make the journey and to make the change???.

Minister Jones further noted that though renewable and sustainable energy was now being talked about, Barbados had been a forerunner in the skills it lent to the world in the breeding of sugar cane. He recalled: ???Every village where they had a sugar plantation; you had wind generated energy ??? a windmill was there – and those windmills had to be repaired and built or fixed??? all of that came from the hands and minds and talents of our people.???

Alluding to the theme of the conference: Build, Innovate, Transform, the Education Minister highlighted the windmill to emphasise that Barbadians could attain success in skilled areas. ???Why do we doubt ourselves???? Mr. Jones asked, as he noted that even if the three terms were interchanged, the goal was still attainable.

Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, Senator Esther Byer Suckoo, commended the partnerships and synergies in TVET between agencies and the Skills for the Future Programme. ???I must commend the emphasis in the Skills for the Future Programme on literacy and numeracy, along with the integration of activities such as sports to promote positive behavioural traits and strengthening of core values,??? Dr. Byer Suckoo said.

Stressing that our human capital was too important to this country???s development for Government not to support the initiative of the inter-American Development Bank (IDB), she added: ???And, it is equally important that all stakeholders play their part in ensuring that we achieve maximum benefits for these externally funded programmes. And, then that we establish the necessary measures to sustain those benefits.???

Meanwhile, IDB???s Barbados Country Representative, Joel Branski, echoing similar sentiments, noted that the most important skills required today were not the traditional academic ones, but the social, emotional and life skills. And, he cited among these communication skills, team work, self-management, responsibility, and sensibility for diversity, pointing out that they were not taught in conventional schools.

Mr. Branski had earlier stated that youth were graduating from the education system without the skills required for today???s labour market and that employers, on the other hand, were having greater difficulty in ???finding workers with the appropriate skills to fill their vacancies???.

The IDB official concluded: ???In light of these observations, our role in supporting education in Barbados??? academic tradition has to be balanced with life skills.???


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