EDITORIAL: Preparing for world of work
THE SEARCH FOR jobs in Canada witnessed over the weekend at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre revealed, among other things, the large number of Barbadians seeking employment and the need for skills to meet market demands.
Some applicants were well certified but clearly not qualified for the job market, despite having completed their university education. Generally, skill sets seemed to be out of sync with the demands of the job market. With only a minority of enterprises willing to provide formal training to employees, the gap is very likely to widen.
This points to a disconnect between our educational system and the demands of commerce and industry. It also highlights the need to train and equip our students not only to enter the domestic workforce, but to be able to fit in wherever opportunities are available.
Barbados may well have an oversupply of social science and management studies graduates, but an undersupply of engineers, technicians, agro-entrepreneurs and hospitality providers.
Perhaps the answer is to place greater emphasis on technical and vocational education and training (TVET). Such a focus can help tackle unemployment and contribute to the retooling of workers whom the private and public sectors must shed and also equip young people to make their first entry into the job market.
It obviously allows for a faster transition to the workplace.
Employers must be more involved in our education system beyond offering attachments and giving students opportunities to develop a good work ethic. They must be involved in setting standards and designing curriculum.
In fact, there must also be a restructuring of the curriculum and pedagogy, particularly at the secondary school level as well as at the Barbados Community College and Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic. Importantly, teachers in the TVET areas must be given the best training and same status as their counterparts in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) areas, and in the humanities and foreign languages.
This will, however, require a change in mindset. That widely held belief that vocational programmes are for low-achieving students must go the way of the dodo bird. TVET does not mean second-rate education geared to those who will hold only blue collar jobs.
Policy shifts will be necessary. TVET students must be encouraged to further their studies at university or other accredited institutions while pursuing on-the-job training and lifelong learning.
TVET must be viewed as a solid pathway to a highly skilled, well-paying career, as a ticket to upward mobility, in much the same way as we view a university education.