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The future of work in Barbados

Guy Hewitt

The future of work in Barbados

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LARGELY UNTOUCHED by the winds of economic change, the Caribbean seems confounded by the shift in the global economic power from the North-West to East-South, specifically to the newly advanced economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China – the BRIC countries.
Burdened by debt and confronted by a loss of geopolitical significance, one thing seems certain: if Barbados and her neighbours are to remain relevant to the 21st century, urgent and aggressive economic transformation is needed.
In a human resource-rich economy, our people remain our greatest resource. As a nation, we have defied the odds and punched above our class to become the most advanced developing country.
All that is now required is for us to dig a little deeper to fashion a new type of worker to accompany this 21st century economy.
The new worker typology can only be constructed out of an understanding of our new economy.
The Barbados economy for the 21st century should be characterized by a smaller yet more responsive and efficient public sector; a dynamic and competitive private sector; competent leaders and managers; workers who are proud, industrious and innovative; workers’ representatives who adhere to an honest day’s pay for a decent day’s work; and with the Church and civil society reaffirming the Protestant work ethic.
Following global trends, future job opportunities will be predominated by science, technology and information. However, with an aging population and overwhelmed parents, the social care sectors should provide career opportunities.
But the burning questions are, what’s the next big thing, and what’s going to be the big money-maker?
Key to finding the jobs of the future will be to know where to look – which will be to companies that entrepreneurs are still to create.
Recent employment studies suggest that an entrepreneurial mindset will be a prerequisite for career success. Going forward, we must all be entrepreneurs, even those who work in the public sector or large corporations.
In a recent USA Today study exploring the changing face of employment over the next 25 years, 32 per cent of employees surveyed believed that having a degree will be far less valued in 20 years.
As workers find they need to adapt to changing career paths, continuous training and professional development will be essential. The need for individuals to constantly evolve their own skill set will be crucial – and exciting.
Never before has there been such choice or encouragement to explore different professional avenues.
Previous generations generally built “lifelong” careers at one company or at least in one particular field. However, tomorrow’s workplace will be dramatically different, and many of the strategies  that worked in the past are no longer viable.
While the economy may recover significantly in the coming years, we need to all redefine our approach to work and career development. Learning will cease to be something delivered in large chunks and become more modular, delivering what you need when you need it.
Apart from specialist workers, future career success will require multiple competencies in leadership and management, sales and marketing, coaching and mentoring, starting a new business or a business unit within a larger organization, customer service and improving performance, and a responsiveness to the environment and sustainable ways of working.
    The worker of tomorrow will require a new education system today. The current system of school and university education dominated by the rote system of learners answering questions and carrying out assignments is redundant.
    Future career success will require active learning to foster a very different set of skills – framing questions, planning, organizing, finding and analyzing information, problem solving, working with others, assembling key resources and tools, testing out ideas, and trying again.
    Our education and training institutions need to be able to cultivate these multiple intelligences.
    Bringing such characteristics and skills inside the curricula and pedagogy is one of the major challenges of education reform. For too long, terms like “technical”, “vocational” and “applied” have been perceived as a second-class offering to “academic rigour” and devotion to abstract topics or concepts. Ignoring the false dichotomy between “head” and “hand”,
technical and vocational education connects “knowing” and “doing”.
Technical and vocational education is more than preparing “children for jobs” or doing something for the “non-university able”.
Rather, career and technical education encompasses a set of key practices – including intellectual curiosity sparking a need to know, creative energies and productivity driving a need to do, the opportunity to work alongside experts or professionals, the challenge of meeting real standards of accomplishment, and offering young learners the opportunity to explore future career possibilities.
All this makes for a more effective transition to the real and adult world.
While we can’t predict the future, we can plan for it. If our economy is to respond to the challenges of the 21st Century, our children, young workers and even the more mature will need a new toolkit to build careers for the future.
City & Guilds sees itself as a strategic partner with the Government and private sector to retool the workforce for economic transformation and growth, and sustainable development.
• Guy Hewitt is an experienced administrator in education.