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Time we gave technical skills more support

shadiasimpson, [email protected]

Time we gave technical skills more support

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OVER THE PAST three weeks the outstanding academic achievements of many of our young people have been recognized by the various scholarships they have gained. This has been specifically so with those getting either National Development Scholarships or Barbados Scholarships and Exhibitions.
Kudos to them and we hope they continue their quest for knowledge and enlightenment, not only for themselves but also for the benefit of the wider society.
In Barbados we are fortunate that, despite a small and vulnerable economy, education is still regarded as a priority and every effort is made to help those seeking to utilize the available opportunities. While Government has been a big provider of scholarships, the private sector has also played a key role through the many scholarships it offers annually to deserving students.
Our attention over the years has been on the high-flyers. So, we have given pride of place to those who excel at the Common Entrance, at CXC, CAPE and then those gaining first class honours at university. There is nothing wrong with this focus, as even in the more developed nations we have seen special provisions being put in place to fast-track gifted students.
As a society, we have recognized that those students pursuing the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) will be critical to the advancement of the society, as will be the teachers, nurses and lawyers, but they will all need the support of the highly skilled technical and vocational people if Barbados is to achieve its national objectives.
Unfortunately, we have tended, even if not deliberately, to overlook some categories of student that will also contribute to the development of the society in a significant way. We speak of students attending the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic. There is nothing for them by way of scholarships and fellowships, with only some of the polytechnics in Nova Scotia, Canada, reaching out in a very limited way to the talented students there.
By our actions we have sent a message to these students that they are second class. This cannot be when we are, among other things, pursuing a green economy promoting the use of technology which will require highly skilled workers.
We need to understand that good vocational education does not mean choosing between university and a career. New technical and vocational courses now combine rigorous academic standards with career-focused, real-world curricula.
It is time for a relook and change to the regulations at our polytechnic, which has done an excellent job over the years. The polytechnic has a competent and capable staff and good strategic leadership.
What it needs is to offer more two-year certified  programmes with students pursuing qualifications offered perhaps by City & Guilds at the equivalent of, and even higher than, CAPE. We need to acknowledge and honour the performances of the SJPP’s outstanding students.