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Barbados has to step up to the plate with its technical and vocational (tec-voc) education, if it is to make advances in the workplace.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Alyson Forte, stressed this today, as he addressed the opening of the ministry’s Human Resource Development (HRD) Strategic Planning Workshop at the Cave Hill School of Business, Cave Hill Campus, St. Michael.

He said: “Tec-voc education is what I think…we would really need for us to go from where we are now to be able to be real players in the area of robotics and other information technology areas…

“For many years, our education has focused on economics, accounts and a number of other areas which are good.  But I think what has distinguished us from maybe Singapore and the South Korean countries, that we were on par with 50 years ago, is their focus on tec-voc.”

Acknowledging that he was speaking “in the immediate aftermath of a successful ILO conference in Geneva”, Mr. Forte not only alluded to this, but other issues discussed in Geneva and worthy of being examined by Barbados. 

Noting that more than 5,700 delegates made up of representatives from government, workers’ representatives and employers were present for that meeting, he said a key area of focus was “The Future of Work”, and one of the main outcomes of the ILO conference was the adoption of new conventions on violence and harassment in the workplace.

“It would be useful for all of us, whether we are employers, workers’ representatives or workers in government to be able to access the ILO website and to see some of the things, the contributions and speeches and even the Declaration and the Convention on Violence and Harassment”, he said, while adding that in relation to the “Future of Work”, there were some recurring points in many of the delegates’ presentations.

Pointing out that these had to do with “the role of Information Technology” and “the impact of Artificial Intelligence on jobs of the future”, he intimated that they could take solace from the words of Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, who had noted that “robots will no doubt replace some workers, but that is not a problem if you own the robots and certainly the technology or capabilities to influence their use”.

The Permanent Secretary also revealed that Barbados had enacted legislation governing sexual harassment in the workplace; there was a new ILO convention that was much more wide-ranging; and in many cases incorporating some aspects of legislation, already existing under criminal law.

“So, a number of areas of violence and sexual harassment which should already exist in criminal law in many countries have now been brought under the ambit of labour legislation. I believe that as a result of this new convention that countries would be expected to look at their legislation to bring together in one place all of those aspects of violence and harassment that would impact on their workers,” he said.  

Mr. Forte further noted that another area of concern was the effect of domestic violence on the workplace.  Stating that delegates believed that what happened in the workplace was also related to the home and stemmed from domestic violence, the official told participants at the workshop that it was an issue to consider when looking at the worker-employer relationship.


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